The Goodwill Hockey Tour

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The biting cold and lingering smog have made most families stay at home in recent days. Surely doing an outdoor activity is quite distressing because of the unfavorable weather. However I received an invitation to watch an ice hockey match, just to keep things lively on what otherwise might have been another boring winter day.

The match was held at Hokay Ice Sport Center, just behind the Civil Aviation General Hospital on Chaoyang Road, in between 4th and 5th East Ring Road. When I went inside the center, the match had just begun.

Spartans vs. Hokay home team

It was a part of the 2016-2017 Goodwill China Tour of Trinity Western University from Canada. Its award-winning ice hockey team, the Spartans, has been touring for a cultural interchange through sport with teams from Russia, Sweden, South Korea, and China. On January 5, they played the home team Hokay.

John Mcintosh, the tour manager, told me TWU visited Hope International School and Canadian International School of Beijing after finishing the team’s inaugural match this tour year in Chengde on December 28. “We visited the schools because we’re very interested with building relationship to have their students go at Trinity,” Mcintosh said.

A lot of audience members were not only from HIS and CISB but there were also local families. Martin Beeson, a teacher at HIS, watched the match together with his 3 sons. Beeson said TWU contacted HIS last year to let them know about the goodwill hockey tour. He added that Liberty University from the US also contacted HIS for last year’s ice hockey friendly event.

“We are delighted that the teams [referring to TWU and Liberty University]have included us in their itineraries,” Beeson said, adding that HIS is looking forward to continue building good relationships with the two universities. “Every senior who has graduated from HIS has gone on to attend university in some part of the world, mostly in the US. We’d like to see some of our students go to TWU and Liberty.” 

Just as the players took a half-time break, a Chinese kid caught my attention as he was really hooked into the game. It’s when I asked his mother, Lucia Su, that I found out that 5-year-old Lucas was fond of the game and that he’s a member of a local kid’s hockey club.

5-year-old Lucas Jia watching the game

“Last August, we went to the US to watch a live hockey game,” Lucia said, adding that she also plans to bring Lucas to the US to study, and for a possible hockey career. I asked if she looks forward to maybe seeing her son play for the Chinese hockey team at the Olympics and she heartily replied, “I hope so!”

Lucas Jia (bottom right), together with his parents Peter Jia (left of Lucas) and Lucia Su (right) pose for a pic while the players are on break.

As the excitement for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing builds up, surely winter sports like ice hockey are becoming more and more popular in China. Some kids in the audience told me that the game is bringing the heat especially during cold winter days. “All the long shots and the adrenaline rush make ice hockey satisfying and fun to watch,” said JH Yoon, a 12-year-old sixth grader who also used to play the game. “If you like hockey, you should definitely try it! It’s fun,” 11-year-old Vince Ma from CISB told me, while cheering for the Spartans.

TWU concluded its friendship games in Tianjin, where the Spartans celebrated the 25th anniversary of their relations with Tianjin Foreign Studies University. Mcintosh said he hopes they’ve accomplished the aim of their tour – goodwill. “Sport is a wonderful bridge for international friendship,” Mcintosh said, adding that ice hockey teaches kids how to prepare for the world.

“You need to learn in the real world how to keep your head up. It’s the same thing in hockey, we say, ‘Keep your head up, look to see who’s coming to hit you,’ because if you have the puck, anybody can hit you. It’s like that in life.”

First two images courtesy of TWU Media / Jacob Kropf

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