HONG KONG – Women’s hockey in Hong Kong is a new phenomenon. And despite only recently forming a national team, the women are aiming high.
The World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend organised by the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association at the Mega Ice centre in Kowloon Bay is where the next crop of players is hoped to be sourced – both for the national team and the newly created women’s-only league, which held its first-ever game on 4th October.
“Everybody had a lot of fun,” event co-coordinator Jeremy Hutchins told IIHF.com. “It was a great platform for our women’s national team, the women’s league and girls’ hockey in general."
“Our focus is to build women’s hockey at the grassroots level, targeting girls between the ages of five to 10 years old to get them interested and involved,” Hutchins said. “Also targeting girls who are early teens to put into our programs and get them consistent ice time and training.”
The Hong Kong national team will compete in its first-ever tournament in December this year, when it hosts the IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia Division I against Singapore, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. This will serve as a big test ahead of the 2014 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B Qualification in Mexico next year spring.
These events will mark the first time a Hong Kong women’s team has competed on the international stage.
“It’s a very exciting time for the national team,” Hutchins said. “Tryouts were held a few weeks ago, so the roster was just finalised. The girls are really looking forward to these two events, and having the event in the same rink as the Challenge Cup made it a really good opportunity to create awareness.”
Ninety girls and women aged from three to 60 attended the Hong Kong event, with national league players helping to coach and mentor the beginners.
One end zone was used for first-time or beginner skaters, while the area in between the blue lines and other end zone were used for more experienced skaters who learnt puck handling and played a fun game with the nets.
“Having the national team players coach created a really positive and fun experience for everybody. There were a lot of laughs and a lot of falling down for some, but everybody had a great time,” Hutchins said.
For IIHF Vice President Thomas Wu – a Hong Kong native – the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend in Asia is the kick-off of a special occasion. While he welcomes the anticipation for the Japanese women’s national team that will participate in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, he is also excited about future events, some that could involve participation from smaller nations like the Macau Ice Sports Federation.
Macau’s contribution, as one of the smallest IIHF and Asian Strategic Planning Group members, presents a challenge to build hockey in the region. While countries such as Japan have 99 international sized rinks, Macau is yet to build a full-size arena.
“One thing both of the countries and of course all the Asian members have together is the passion for our game,” said Wu. “Everybody is working very hard, and exemplifies the situation and commitment in Asia best.”
The Asian Strategic Planning Group consists of 17 members now with the additions of Australia and New Zealand from the Pacific region, which helps to allow the Asian teams to gain experience playing against teams closer to home. The Australian women’s national team will compete in the 2014 IIHF Women’s Challenge Cup of Asia in Harbin, China.
Hong Kong doesn’t yet have the talent pool of Japan, but events like this will go a long way to growing the ranks of the future.
“Our main focus is to try to build up from grassroots so in five to ten years from now, we have many girls who have played here and are born and raised here to go into our national team program,” said Hutchins.
“And hopefully this will make Hong Kong a strong competitor at the World Championship level.”
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