After having earlier had ice hockey at another shopping mall ice rink of a smaller size, the new rink enabled Malaysia for the first time to play the sports according to the rule book, 5-on-5, and host IIHF events. In short: Malaysia can reach the next level and that’s exactly what the Malaysia Ice Hockey Federation plans to do.
“We are looking into becoming a full member of the IIHF and compete in the World Championship program in 2020 or 2021 with the men and later with the women. We hope to bring more women into the game to be able to join in 2022 or 2023,” said Hisham Yahaya, the new General Secretary of the MIHF.
The World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend that took place in Malaysia on Saturday is part of the plan. It has been hosted in the capital region already for many years.
“The event was very good. We had lots of new girls. About 50 girls came of whom many have not skated before. We hope these are the potential girls who get interested and start playing because we want young girls to participate in our future national team plans,” he said, with members of the women’s national team on-site to help the newcomers.
Opposed to other countries where ice hockey has a longer tradition, but mostly in men’s ice hockey, the female players in Malaysia are not as much outnumbered by male players as for example in Europe.
“Women are also looking into playing ice hockey and we don’t think that ice hockey is just for men. Our women’s team won the Challenge Cup of Asia Division I,” Yahaya said. “There are currently more young girls participating who play in three different junior leagues where we have a good balance between boys and girls, and in the next five or six years when they get older I think we will be more competitive.”
The concept of hockey is nothing stranger to Malaysia but when people talk hockey, they would normally think about field hockey, which is considered a national sport. Malaysia is 12th in the FIH Men’s World Ranking and second in Asia only behind India.
The new rink makes it a bit easier to recruit players to play hockey on ice too.
“We have our hockey school program at the new ice rink and the ice rink management has been very supportive. They gave us free ice time for three hours for the World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend. A lot of the other activities we get very good support from the ice rink owner,” Yahaya said about the new life at MYNISS.
“We have restaurants around the ice rinks and when some see there are events they would like to join. They also see our equipment which they can borrow for free. We also have a group of players who assist people in putting on the gear. We advise young parents that they can borrow the equipment unless they want to buy their own.”
Malaysia will host more Challenge Cup of Asia tournaments in the upcoming season at their new venue and hope to build on the success on the ice that the various national teams have had thanks to the better training opportunities.
“We organize more and more international tournaments, which is good for the population in general as they can watch such events live. We have close to 500 players not including some that are just in the hockey school. We have had like 100 new players in the federation and clubs. The numbers are growing because kids like to play games indoor. It’s cool and ice hockey is physical,” Yahaya said.
It’s not only the rink itself that helps Malaysia reach new levels but also the Southeast Asia Games last year, a highly popular sporting event in the countries involved.
“It has created a lot of interest in the population and many parents brought their children to play. Our hockey school is growing where we have learn to skate and learn to play programs. We have close to 50 hockey school players. It was not like this previously because ice hockey was not a popular sport but when they saw ice hockey in the SEA Games the interest grew. We used to have players starting at 10 or 11, now we have players as young as four-year-olds who start to play ice hockey,” he said.
The first full-size ice rink of the country of 31-million people may create interest for more as until now ice hockey has been concentrated at the venues around Kuala Lumpur. Yahaya hopes that businesses get more interested after the positive experiences also in other regions as a new rink is planned 150 kilometres south in Malacca that he hopes will be full size. “We hope to have more ice rinks in the future as the game is getting more popular and mall operators are also looking more into this,” he said.
Click here to access the #WGIHW tracker with more stories from the World Girls' Ice Hockey Weekend.