Asian hockey widens border

U20 Challenge Cup of Asia goes to Sakhalin

08.07.2014
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Located north of the Japanese island of Hokkaido, Sakhalin offers a perfect climate for winter sports. Photo: V. Nemirovski / RIA Novosti

ZURICH – Asian hockey is widening its borders with the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 Challenge Cup of Asia going to the Russian island of Sakhalin north of Japan.

The event will include the MHL Red Stars with players from the Russian-based junior league MHL and its newest member, Sakhalinskie Akuly (“Sakhalin Sharks”), and the U20 national teams from Kazakhstan, Japan and Korea.

2014 marks the year for a big shift in ice hockey in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, the island’s administrative capital and biggest city with 180,000 inhabitants. It is located just about 600 kilometres east of Khabarovsk, Russia’s most traditional hockey city in the Far East, and 500 kilometres north of Sapporo, Japan, in another region where hockey is popular among both athletes and fans.

With the Sakhalinskie Akuly the island will get top-level domestic junior hockey in the MHL next season and may also get a professional senior team as Morskie Lvy Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk (“Sea Lions Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk”) reportedly aims to join the Asia League with teams from Japan, Korea and China.

In 2013 when the U20 Challenge Cup of Asia was held in Khabarovsk, the Japanese defeated the MHL Red Stars consisting of players from the local MHL team Amurskie Tigry Khabarovsk 6-4 in the deciding game for the tournament win.

This year’s event will be held in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk from 5 to 7 August 2014. The schedule is to be announced and will be visible on the Challenge Cup of Asia page.

MARTIN MERK

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