Hockey fans can enjoy watching 18 teams from today to tomorrow at the National Stadium South Concourse at the 4th Annual Beijing Pond Hockey Tournament @ the 2016 Beijing Ice Hockey Festival. There will be a charity raffle taking place with a chance to win a gateway for two to Sanya or a signed Montreal Canadiens Jersey. The really thrilling games will be taking place tomorrow (Saturday 16) from 8am as today’s will be team registration and preliminary games.
Curtis Dracz, founder of The 4th Annual Beijing Pond Hockey Tournament and owner of Can Life Sports says, “We moved it to the Bird’s Nest this year, for safety reasons, because it’s not as cold and Houhai [where they had it last year]is not as safe this time around. But that turned out great, because The Bird’s Nest is a great venue to have it at, especially leading up to the Winter Olympics. So hopefully we can have more tournaments there in the future.”
In 2022, Beijing will host a multitude of different winter sports athletes, competing to be known as the best in the world. One of the main attractions is sure to be the hockey competitions that will be held in National Indoor Stadium near the Bird’s Nest. Fans will get the chance to watch some professional National Hockey League (NHL) players hoping to win gold.
Hockey is among North America’s top four professional team sports and the one with the oldest trophy in the world – the Stanley Cup. Canadian based teams have won the title more times than their American counterparts.
Canada’s dominance (seeing as it’s the national sport) has generated interest enough to bring over former players to spread the passion of the sport to the young Chinese kids hoping that one day there will be more Chinese professional players in the NHL.
Four former Montreal Canadiens are currently in Beijing holding clinics at various locations, helping kids improve skills such as how to properly hold the hockey stick, hand-eye coordination, and more. Mathieu Dandenault, Gaston Gingras, Steve Shutt, and Patrice Brisebois are taking turns on the ice and teaching small groups of kids all about the game.
We got to sit down with Gingras and Brisebois, who are visiting China for the first time and are part of the Montreal Canadiens Alumni Program at the Kempinski Hotel Beijing Lufthansa Center. Since the 1990s, Gingras has been coaching kids. Some of his students have ended up playing for the NHL. He says that being passionate about something is the most important factor for successful kids.
“It’s truly amazing to see the progress of kids as they keep improving,” says Gingras. The language barrier isn’t a major obstacles as most of the clinics are action based; the kids follow what the players are doing. They also have translators to help them when explaining more involved points.
The one of the organizers of the clinics, CTC Ice and Snow specialize in consulting, designing, engineering, manufacturing, installing, and servicing ice rinks and surfaces across Asia. They plan on promoting more hockey clinics and events, especially in winter.
Dracz says “I’m managing the Habs [nickname for the Montreal Canadiens]tour as well. Saturday is their last day in China, so we’re going to take them to the tournament at the Bird’s Nest. They’re going to lace up and play a short game, so it’ll be a nice event for people to spectate, and take photos and autographs.”
Fans wanting to join a team can get more information and help by getting in touch with the Beijing International Ice Hockey League (BIIH).
Photo: Curtis Dracz