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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid