The 9th Invitational Ice Hockey Championship saw teams from around the world battling for supremacy on the ice. (Photo by Samuel Lim/ Singapore Sports Council)
The Singapore Ice Hockey Association (SIHA) has been driving local hockey from its humble beginnings in the old Jurong East rink to international rinks over the years. This year, it held its annual 9th Invitational Ice Hockey Championship over two weeks - the finals of the Asia, Recreational and Open categories on 8 March at JCube’s ice hockey rink.
Organiser of the event and SIHA’s head of coaching, Mr Kevin Tan shared how the tournament first began in 2000 as a result of a group of good-willed Canadian expats.
“They came over to Singapore and thought it would be fun to introduce this sport to us. Ever since then, we have been organising this tournament every year. Over the last few years, it has also grown to be regional – we also invite neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and Hong Kong,” explained Kevin.
This tournament has been a keystone in the development and global recognition of Singapore’s ice hockey scene, hosting teams such as Melbourne Nite Owls from Australia and Suwon Eagles from Korea.
The Suwon Eagles from Korea. (Photo by Samuel Lim/ Singapore Sports Council)
“In fact, every year people from regions which are active in ice hockey mark their calendars for this event,” added Kevin.
This yearly tournament aims to build sportsmanship and teamwork among ice hockey players, and showcases the talents within the local ice hockey scene, as well as Singapore to these guests.
Despite having a low profile in the local sports spectrum, Singapore’s national hockey team does boast of some noteworthy accolades.
At the recent Challenge Cup of Asia held in Kyrgyzstan, Singapore’s Men’s Ice Hockey team took home a bronze in the competition. Moreover, in this year’s Invitational Tournament, Singaporean Teams SG Manimals, Yellowknife and Hawkers fought all the way to the finals, even defeating Australian rival Melbourne Nite Owls.
SG Manimals (in white) took on the Hawkers in the finals but eventually lost on penalties after drawing 2-2 in regular time. (Photo by VoxSports)
This year’s tournament saw SG Manimals going up against Hawkers in the finals, with the latter eventually clinching the title in the penalty shootout after the match ended 2-2 in double overtime.
The Hawkers (above) defeated SG Manimals in the penalty shootout to emerge victorious. (Photo by Samuel Lim/ Singapore Sports Council)
Singapore men’s team captain, Michael Loh and women’s team assistant captain Diane Foo expressed satisfaction over the team’s achievements thus far, and looked forward to a promising future of even bigger aspirations and achievements.
“Next year there will be another Asia Challenge Cup, and we hope that the men’s team can be promoted up to the top division. Currently, we are playing in Division one, similar to the women’s team,” Michael commented.
Diane echoed his sentiments, adding: “We hope that more women will be interested in this sport and come and join us, as it is a really exciting and fun game.”
This was by no means an easy feat, given the five-year hiatus that these players experienced when the rink at Jurong East was taken down to make way for the new and spanky JCube Shopping Mall.
The future of Singapore’s Ice Hockey shows much promise, as there is a healthy rate of players being recruited to increase the pool of talent.
Beginning April, SIHA will be starting its “Learn to Play” programme, where children under 16 will get professional coaching on the basics of skating and hockey.
“They’ll be taught systematically how to play and develop themselves for the sport. When they finish the programme, they’ll be channeled into the various youth clubs in Singapore. There are over 20 such clubs, so there is no shortage of teams for them to join,” added Kevin, SIHA’s head of coaching.