TANGERANG SELATAN, Indonesia – The interest was huge. 85 girls stepped onto the ice during the Indonesia’s World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend.
Only five of the girls had played ice hockey before and the majority had even not skated on ice before coming to the BX Rink.
Because of the big interest and the shortage of coaches the event was extended to three days - Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“We taught the girls how to skate and how to play ice hockey as well,” the General Secretary of the national ice hockey body FHEI (Federasi Hoki Es Indonesia), Wiwin Salim, said. “I was very happy with the turnout.”
Because so many of the girls had not been on the ice before it was not possible for Indonesia to join in the inaugural Global Girls’ Game between the Blue and White teams.
“We had to teach them to skate and just had some hockey passing exercises on the ice,” Salim said. “Maybe next year we will try a more advanced game.”
The Indonesians intend to invite the girls to more events to keep their interest.
“The response has been very good,” Salim said. “We will also give them a discount if they want to come to skate and play ice hockey.
“The girls were very surprised to be given a chance to play hockey on the ice and enjoyed the experience.”
Each session began with a 10-minute period off the ice when they were told about the history of ice hockey.
“We told them how to stand and then how to skate on the ice,” Salim said. “It was the first time most of them knew anything about ice hockey.”
It was not all plain sailing when they went on to the ice.
“There was a lot of falling down but they were very happy,” Salim said. “We had told them how to fall if they lost their balance and also how to get up.”
The World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend was significant for the future of Indonesian ice hockey.
“I would like to thank the IIHF for accepting our application to host the event,” Salim said. “The success of the weekend has meant so much for the Indonesian ice hockey community.
“All the players and our five coaches are very excited. It has let more and more people here to know about the game and learn about ice hockey.”
The event was held on the ice rink at the Bintaro Jaya XChange shopping mall in Tangerang Selatan, a city of over million people just west of the capital of Jakarta.
“A lot of the public watched and wanted to know how to learn to skate and play ice hockey,” Salim said. “It was good that we had it in the mall because the public learnt about ice skating when they came to shop at the mall.”
Indonesia has bigger plans and aims for IIHF membership and forming a national team in time for the next Southeast Asian Games that could include ice hockey for the first time.
“It will mean everything to us,” Salim said. “This has been a long wait of 19 years for us. It has long been a dream of ice hockey players in Indonesia to be part of IIHF, and now it can become reality.”
There would be a lot of benefits for Indonesia in being in the IIHF family including development programs and playing in international events.
“Yes it will definitely help the growth of Indonesian hockey,” Salim said. “Our athletes will have the chance to meet with more friends around the world.
“Our young athletes will definitely practise harder to be able to represent Indonesia in international events.”
Salim thinks the interest in ice hockey will increase because until now ice hockey has mainly been a leisure sport for those who were aware about its existence in Indonesia.
“But now, when people know that they can represent our country in international events and multi-sport events, the people will see the ice hockey sport differently.
“Although our players did join several overseas competitions after 1998 they only represented a club team.”
That’s why Salim and his organization worked on recognition for the sport within Indonesia and on fulfilling the criteria to become an IIHF member sooner rather than later. That could create more opportunities but also the challenge to lift the standard of hockey.
“Playing in the Challenge Cup of Asia would be the greatest experience for us,” Salim said.
“The Southeast Asian Games in 2017 is a big thing here in Indonesia. It always gets a lot of media coverage during the whole event, and this is a big opportunity for us to promote ice hockey.”
With the recent inclusion of ice hockey as one of the first winter sports in the multi-sports event it could be the first time that ice hockey will be played at the Southeast Asian Games.
Indonesian hockey has already demonstrated that it can stage ice hockey events that attract players from other countries.
This will be tested again when the Indonesian tournament is held next month from 12 to 15 November.
“This is the second time that we have hosted the event,” Salim said. “Last year we had five adult teams and three junior teams.
“This year we expect 10 to 12 teams to join in this event. We have confirmed two teams from Malaysia and have several players from Singapore, Philippines and Japan who will join some local teams.”
Until recently Robyn and Richie Regehr have been the only connection between Indonesia and international hockey. The former was born in Brazil and lived in Indonesia from the age of 3 to 7 before the family moved to Canada. He represented Canada internationally and played in the NHL until last spring. He is still well known in Indonesia. His younger brother Richie was born in Indonesia and is currently playing for Red Bull Munich in Germany.
“Our players know about Roby Regehr and he is one of our idols,” Salim said. “We hope that someday he and his brother could come to Indonesia again.”
Indonesian hockey players know about international hockey and the National Hockey League and some of them dream to play there.
Ten-year -old Andrew Killin has a dream to be the first Indonesian player in the NHL.
“He practices regularly every week,” Salim said. “We hope he can achieve his dream. He will definitely be a member of the Indonesian team in the future.”
Salim rated his top three players in Indonesian hockey.
“This is a difficult question but I will try to answer it based on my personal opinions,” he said.
“Felix Haristian is one of the ice hockey pioneers in Indonesia. He has made so many contributions to our ice hockey community.
“Rama Landerth spent his childhood in the United States but is now back in Indonesia. He definitely plays a different level of hockey compared with our local players.
“Ronald Wijaya is still active as a player but also as a coach in our national federation. He is helping the development of Indonesia’s junior team.”
Ice hockey has been played in Indonesia since 1996 when a second indoor ice rink was built at Pluit-Jakarta. The first one was built in ‘80s at Senayan-Jakarta but only for leisure activities.
There are 100 senior and 45 junior ice hockey players in Indonesia and 98 percent of them are male.
There are two ice rinks in Indonesia that are used for ice hockey. But the country has yet to get an international size rink.
A lot of the ice rinks in Indonesia are attached to shopping malls and this helps to promote the game.
“The shopping mall is the number one destination for people in the city for family entertainment, a hangout for teenagers, a place for business meetings, buying groceries, having a meal, shopping, keeping fit in a gymnasium and having English courses,” Salim said.
“It is easier for us to attract people to try ice skating there rather than having an ice rink at a hall or sports complex.”
Ice hockey is a developing sport in Indonesia and there are now five adult teams that play regularly and three junior teams.
“We always use the normal format of five players plus one goalie for each team,” Salim said. “We have three periods of 12 minutes.”
The first Indonesian Ice Hockey League started at 2012 and the winning team for each year has been Biru Team (2012), Indonesia Mix (2013), Knight Team (2014) and Batavia Demons (East Team) in 2015.
The strength of Indonesian ice hockey has been expats who have used their expertise and enthusiasm to develop the sport.
“As an organizing committee we never insisted that expats must spread themselves evenly across several teams,” Salim said.
“But it is obvious that expats have brought a different level of ice hockey to our country. However, last year our local team Batavia Demons did win the league.”
Now Salim hopes to soon be able to form an official national team in the growing hockey landscape of Asia.