LJUBLJANA– Ice Hockey Federation of Slovenia, together with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), hosted a meeting of the representatives of ice hockey associations from the Balkan region.
As the IIHF is in the process of putting together a multi-year plan for ice hockey development in the Balkans, the meeting was aimed at identifying the needs of the region’s national ice hockey associations.
“Getting input from the national organizations from the region is of key importance to develop suitable incentives on the part of the main organization,” said Henrik Bach Nielsen, who as IIHF Council member represents the International Ice Hockey Federation in its endeavor towards ice hockey development in the Balkans.
The participants presented summaries on the current state of ice hockey in their respective countries as well as ideas for possible mutual cooperation, with the emphasis on younger age categories. Although the sport exists at different levels of development throughout the region, the challenges the national associations are faced with are similar. The biggest challenges in most cases are lack of appropriate infrastructure and financial means; while on the other hand, great enthusiasm and love for the sport are something they all have in common.
The Ice Hockey Federation of Slovenia, one of the most successful programs in the region, presented the project of ice hockey development in the Balkans based on two pillars; one including Balkan ice hockey academy and development camps, and the other one focused on competition integration.
The goal of the ice hockey academy would be to develop coaching and other support staff, while the development camps would focus on players at the most early stages of their ice hockey career. Also presented at the occasion was the idea for a national ice hockey development center with advanced technological solutions which would enable quality development of ice hockey players and ice hockey experts.
“Today's meeting represents a first step to approach ice hockey development within the region in a systematical and organized way. I hope the IIHF will look favorably on the proposed initiatives,” said Slovenia's Ice Hockey federation president Matjaz Rakovec.