From Taipei City to the NWHL
by Christian Pierre|26 NOV 2019
Tzu-Ting (Tiffany) Hsu recently joined the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts.
photo: Mike Hetzel
Imagine you hail from a tropical island where winter is just a noun and although January is the coldest month of the year in Chinese Taipei, due its geographical location, it is never too cold. Average low and high temperatures on the island vary between 13 °C (55 °F) and 16 °C (61 °F). Hence, what are the odds you decide to play ice hockey in Taipei City, the biggest city on the island of Taiwan, that boasts three ice rinks?

It was the choice of Tzu-Ting (Tiffany) Hsu, who picked up ice hockey as her favorite sport and got hooked on playing in the net. Something she did pretty well and was scouted by the coaches of the Chinese Taipei women’s ice hockey team when it for the first time played in an IIHF competition back in the 2014/2015 season.

“I actually started playing hockey as an inline hockey player,” she explains. “I was starting to rollerblade at a skating club. The club also had a hockey team and when the coach asked me to try inline hockey, I did, and I liked it. At that time there was no ice rink close to where I lived in Taipei City. I only got involved in ice hockey a couple of years down the road when the Taipei Arena was built. When I first started out, I was a forward. But when the team needed a goalie, the coach asked us who would like to play between the pipes. So, I volunteered, and I just absolutely loved it.” Apparently, it worked out well for Hsu.

As a goalie for Chinese Taipei she won gold at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B Qualification on home ice while helping her team to take the silver one level higher the following year at the Division II Group B in Valdemoro, Spain. At this last spring’s Division II Group B tournament in Brasov, Romania, Hsu posted a 97.7 save percentage while facing an average of 30.72 shots against per 60 minutes.
Tzu-Ting (Tiffany) Hsu with a player of the game award following Chinese Taipei’s shutout win against New Zealand at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group B.
photo: Razvan Pasarica
Her stellar performance helped secure the first-ever gold-medal finish for a team from Chinese Taipei at the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship program and earned her recognition as the tournament’s Best Goalkeeper and the team’s MVP. As a result of winning the tournament, Chinese Taipei was promoted to the 2020 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A, which will take place in Jaca, Spain. “It was hard work. But basically, the girls were ready. We were able to compete but previously we never had the support and never had the chance to do that,” she says. 

In October Hsu signed with the Buffalo Beauts from the NWHL as their third goalie. The Chinese Taipei goalie became the 100th player to sign for the NWHL’s 2019/2020 season.

“There is no draft in the NWHL. They usually pick players from university teams and reach out to them to see if they are interested to play in the league. It’s always been a dream of mine to be able to compete at that level. Last year I signed as a free agent, but I stayed an extra year at university to finish my master’s thesis, so I wasn’t able to make that commitment. However, having finished this year I reached out to the GM’s of the different teams. They all sent me the try-out dates, so I went.” 

Her gold at this year’s Women’s World Championship Division II Group B as well as the awards for Best Goalkeeper and Team MVP surely aided to land a spot on the roster. “I didn’t play U.S. college hockey and not many people realize Chinese Taipei has an ice hockey team. So, it certainly helped, and they looked me up and noticed me. I came to Canada for high school and ice hockey. When I went to the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) I was in a position being the fourth goalie and basically the coach got too many goalies and he cut me from the university team.” She then went to play for club teams like the Rochester Edge and Carolina Lady Hurricanes. “But I stayed at RIT because I wanted an education.”  

Making the team surely changed the athletic life of the women who came from Chinese Taipei, 33rd in the IIHF Women’s World Ranking, to North America.

“Before I was on this team, I just played club hockey, pick-up hockey and beer league,” she said. “Sure, that keeps you active, but it’s not the perfect team situation where you practise, and you have goalie coach. That’s different now. It helps me to get better, because I have actually someone looking at me and telling me what I need to work on.”
However, the biggest change for Hsu came rather off the ice. “I didn’t realize what big influence I have to everyone who plays ice hockey back home. And ever since my signing news came out, players reached out to me telling me they wanted to follow my footsteps. I think that’s great for the game. We recently hosted a women’s hockey tournament on the island and the national federation has been using this opportunity to get a lot of publicity and media outlets out there at the event. It’s helping to push the sport in my country. That’s what I like to see, the fact that the federation can use me as a kind of role model to help grow ice hockey in Chinese Taipei. That’s what we need right now. We need the country to notice us to give us the support. It seems I triggered motivation in young Taipei girls playing hockey, I like that,” she says.

Playing for the Buffalo Beauts in the NWHL is not a full professional career for Hsu. “Most of the women on the roster have a job,” she says. “I still work full time as a mechanical engineer outside playing hockey. However, I’m fully committed. I’ve been to every single practice and I’m on the roster. Joining the NWHL and the Beauts means a whole lot to me. It’s a dream come true,” she ends.