QIQIHAR, China – For the next two weeks the focus will be on women’s hockey. The IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup kicks off on Wednesday in China, and next week the finals of the European Women’s Challenge Cup will be played in Finland.
The 2012 IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia will be the third edition of the event. After last year’s competition in Japan, the event now goes back to China. It will take place in Qiqihar, one of the hockey towns in the north of the country. The city of 1.5 million inhabitants in the Heilongjiang province offers perfect conditions for winter sports as the thermometer won’t go higher than -5°C this week.
It will be the first of four tournaments in this year’s IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia. The men’s event will be held 17-25 March in Dehradun, the first-ever IIHF tournament in India.
As of this season there will also be junior events included in the program. The 2012 IIHF U20 Challenge Cup of Asia will be staged in Seoul, Korea, 26-30 May, and the U18 event in the United Arab Emirates, 1-6 April.
The first Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia took place in 2010 in Shanghai and was won by the host team, China. One year later Japan hosted the event in Nikko and the Japanese took revenge in the final game.
Host China will participate with two squads in the four-team tournament. China 1 will be the senior team coached by Mikhail Chekanov, the newly appointed Russian coach who will have his first tournament with the team following a tour through Canada. China 2 will be a junior team that will consist of players mostly born in 1995 and 1996 from the hockey teams in Qiqihar and Harbin, the other main producer of Chinese hockey talent in the province.
Same as last year reigning champion Japan and Korea will be the other nations participating in the tournament.
Rosters, statistics and live coverage of the event can be found here. The final rosters will be online later today following the first meeting of the tournament directorate.
The Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia will not only be about playing, but also about learning – on and off the ice.
A clinic for referees will be held in Qiqihar during the tournament. Led by IIHF Referee Supervisor and Referee Instructor Sandra Dombrowksi, the game officials will have special education and presentations regarding IIHF Officiating Standards, receiving an international licence, and game analysis.
IIHF Sport Administration Manager Andy Ecker will run another education program for the result managers he assigns to events all over the world.
One goal is to find and educate future result managers to run the IIHF’s statistical system, Hydra, at international tournaments. As the IIHF has a special co-operation with the Harbin Institute in China, two teachers will undergo this education in order to teach the system at the Harbin Institute in the future.
“I would like to thank the Chinese Ice Hockey Association which has done a great job in setting up the tournament in Qiqihar and providing the best environment for the participating countries,” said IIHF Asian Sport Development Manager Harald Springfeld. “The association would like to grow women’s hockey in Qiqihar, which was also the reason to come to China this year.”
Once the 2012 IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia will be over, the next women’s hockey event will start in Europe only a few days later. Tornado Moscow Region (Russia), HPK Hämeenlinna (Finland), the ZSC Lions Zurich (Switzerland) and ESC Planegg (Germany) will battle for the European Women’s Champions Cup in the final tournament in Hämeenlinna, 24-26 February.