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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer 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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs