News / Asia

Ice Hockey a Hit in Beijing

A skater plays ice hockey on a frozen lake in Beijing December 23, 2010.
A skater plays ice hockey on a frozen lake in Beijing December 23, 2010.

Multimedia

Audio
William Ide

When one thinks of the sports in which China excels, swimming, gymnastics or track and field usually come to mind. But ice hockey? While the sport may not have as big a following as soccer or basketball, there are an increasing number of youngsters who are learning about slap shots, hat tricks and teamwork.



Flying Tigers

Nestled in a newly built neighborhood on the northwest side of Beijing, high up on the fourth floor of a massive shopping complex, is one of this city's newest ice rinks. It is also the site of an ice hockey camp for young, talented players.

For several weeks last month, the Flying Tigers hosted a summer camp for these young players. Most were from Beijing, but some came from as far away as Hong Kong and the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.

“Initially coming to China where hockey isn't their main focus, I was very impressed with the skill level of the kids right from the 04-05s, right up to the big kids," said Kevin Masters, one of several coaches flown in from Canada. "The specifics of the skating and the individual type skills are absolutely comparable to what we see back home in Canada.”

Supportive parents

And where there is ice hockey - a sport that requires a lot of time and money - there are always ice hockey parents cheering their kids on and giving pointers.

Zhou Jianwei, who's eight-year-old son is a goalie, says ice hockey helps kids learn about teamwork.
Zhou Jianwei, who's eight-year-old son is a goalie, says ice hockey helps kids learn about teamwork.

“When my son started playing ice hockey, we had just seen the movie Transformers and he thought goalies look like Transformers with all of their pads on and because of that it was his favorite position,” said Zhou Jianwei, whose eight-year-old son is a goalie.

Zhou says that in China, where many families have only one child, his son is learning more than just a sport.

“Many kids [in China] lack a sense of teamwork and what it means to work hard for what they want to get because their parents have taken care of everything for them. But since he's started playing ice hockey, he's slowly begun to understand how to work together with his teammates to accomplish a goal and gained a sense of how [in society] people need to help one another to get things done,” Zhou said.

China's colder northeast provinces are largely considered the home of ice hockey in the country. And, a large majority of the players on China's national ice hockey team grew up there.

New ice rinks

Now, with new rinks in Beijing, that is starting to change. Local hockey organizers note that the number of U16 or 16 year-old ice hockey players in Beijing is likely to surpass the number of players in the northeast in the next season or two.

The reasons, they say, are because more families in Beijing can afford ice hockey, which is an expensive sport, and because the northeast is opening up to other sports, which is taking players away from the ice.

Cao Zhennan says her father played hockey while growing up in the northeast and helped to get her son interested.  She says the lessons her son learns from ice hockey far outweigh any future prospect of making the national team or playing more competitively.

“Ice hockey is a fast and physical sport, it's a really a fun sport," Cao said. "On top of that, he's a boy and we got into the sport hoping it would help him become more courageous. It (ice hockey) also gets more interesting as the kids learn how to work together and make a lot of new friends.”

Charlie, an 11-year-old, who plays right wing, says his friend Abiyasi got him interested in the sport a year-and-a-half ago. Charlie says the sport has other benefits besides keeping him away from computer games.

“I think it's fun. It's good for my health and it's not boring!” Charlie said.

More teams

Mark Simon, vice president and head coach of the Beijing Imperial Guard Hockey Club, one of several teams in the Beijing Junior Hockey League, says team rosters have been growing in recent years.

“A group of us, our club and a few others started a league in 2008 and 2009 with four teams, which included about 50-60 players," Simon said. "Now, last season in 10-11, we had about 25 teams, so about 300 players, 300-350.”

Simon, an ex-banker from Montreal who started playing ice hockey at the age of five, says he left his gear in Canada when he first came to China. Several years later, he works for a company that builds rinks in Asia.

He says that as far as Asian cities go, Beijing is quite spoiled.

“To have four full ice sheets is quite rare," noted Simon. "And that is one of the reasons ice hockey is growing here a lot more quickly than in places like Hong Kong. Hong Kong has got a huge hockey following, a lot of kids playing, but they are very limited by the number of ice surfaces they have.”

Just getting started

Lane Moore, another coach who is helping out at the Flying Tigers camp, says ice hockey is just getting started in Beijing.

“With their development of new rinks, new ice surfaces, the numbers in Beijing are going through the roof and I am hearing in Shanghai it is the same way and I just think the potential for ice hockey in China is going to keep going,” Moore said.

Both he and Kevin Masters say they never expected to be running an ice hockey camp in China, and certainly not on the fourth floor of a shopping mall. But they say the publicity from curious shoppers helps build interest in a sport that they say is quickly on its way from a novelty to the mainstream.

You May Like

Video Obama to Send 3,000 Troops to Liberia in Ebola Fight

At Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, President says US will take leadership role for a global response to deadly Ebola virus that is ravaging West Africa More

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

Muslims in Kunming say that they condemn the violence, it is not a reflection of the true beliefs of their faith More

Humanitarian Aid, Equipment Blocked in Cameroon

Move is seen as a developing supply crisis in West Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Communityi
X
September 16, 2014 2:06 PM
Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid