With hockey being one of the popular sports in online betting in Malaysia, it would be interesting to find out how the national team performs in international and regional competitions. With IIHF World Championship coming in 2022 in Finland, one would also be interested in knowing which country will be competing in the tournament. This and more information can be found here. For now, Kate Richardson (You can view her profile here) will be looking at the Asian and Pacific national ice hockey teams and their performance at the international and regional competitions. This analysis will cover the past and future as well as issues to do with the governance of this game in the Asia and Pacific region.
Ice Hockey in the tropics!
Ice Hockey is growing fast, even in countries that are in the tropics, the game has become popular with some nations sending their teams to temperate regions to practice. With several Asian countries lying on the tropics, any geography class worth its salt will tell you that they rarely experience snowing apart from the peak of the tallest mountains. To play ice hockey and other sporting activities that depend on ice as the surface, they either create an artificial environment or send their teams to the countries which experience winter. Some opt for both and out of it they have developed games such as Ice hockey among others. Although the Asian and Pacific ice hockey teams cannot match the prowess exhibited by the countries which have natural ice setting, they cannot be ruled out as they have formidable teams that can put a real challenge.
Canada is the current champion in Ice Hockey with the game being treated as a national sporting activity in the country. It is already a part of their culture, where you will find almost everybody playing either competitively or just for recreational purposes. Countries that are embracing the game have been following the footsteps of Canada and other European countries. They aim at popularizing the game in their cultures and even forming strong sides that can compete in international fixtures.
Participation in the international fixtures
In the Asia-Pacific region only three countries have participated in the Winter Olympics and other international fixtures. Malaysia has not participated at this level but the country has a team that performs relatively fair in the regional tournaments.
Australia is one of the best ice hockey teams in the Asian –Pacific region. The men’s team made its international debut in the Olympic Games in 1960. Women’s and junior teams followed suit where they made their international debuts in 2000 and 1983 respectively. Nicknamed the Mighty Roos, the men’s team is managed by Ice Hockey Australia, a body that is a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).
Although the team has not performed relatively well in the international tournaments, they have the most appearances in the region. They have been at the Winter Olympics once, where they were defeated in all the matches they played. They have participated in the World Championships for a record thirty-three times with their best performance being recorded in 1962 when they were finished at position 13. The current men’s national team is currently in division two; this is after they were relegated in 2013. They are ranked at position 35 in the world rankings.
In their latest international fixtures, the team finished at position 30 in both 2017 and 2018 and 31 in 2019. 2020 and 2022 fixtures were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are higher expectations for the team, given that they have a strong side. While it is not expected to jump to the top ten lists, Australia’s men’s team is expected to improve its performance in the coming months. The team also expects to be elevated to division one upon improved performance.
The team will continue dominating the region given it is among the highly ranked teams in the world rankings. However, it should be ready for the upcoming teams given that the game has grown in popularity. There have been new teams that have joined the competition; these teams have shown great potential even though they are in regions where the environment does not allow the full-time practice. They depend on artificial platforms and several trips to countries where Ice Hockey is played in natural environments. With current travel restrictions occasioned by the COVID-19, these teams have not had adequate practice. Australia’s main challengers in the region are Japan and Kazakhstan, the only two teams which have participated in the Winter Olympics.
Kazakhstan men’s team has been a member of the IIHF since 1992 with the team making an international debut in 1992. Before that, the team had participated internationally in 1962 and 1982 when the country was still part of the Soviet Union. Women’s and junior teams perform equally better in the region and international platform, with the teams making debuts in 1995. The men’s team is currently ranked at position 16 in the world having competed twice in Winter Olympics.
The team has performed well in the Asian winter games, it has been emerging in position one apart from 2003 and 2007 where they were placed second.
Good performance is also shown in the Olympic Games where they emerged at positions 8 and 9 in 1998 and 2006 respectively, the only two tournaments they have participated in at this level. The most recent appearance was in the 2021 IIHF World Championship which was held in May and June. The team finished in 10th position, their best performance ever, although several national sides did not participate in the games which were held in Latvia due to the current health crisis.
Japan is currently ranked at position 23 in the world rankings
Other countries which have Ice hockey teams and have been participating in regional tournaments include:
- Hongkong, China
- China Mainland
- Chinese Taipei
Ice Hockey will continue growing in popularity as more countries join, especially in areas where the sport cannot be played in natural environments. The presence of this game in these regions shows the determination that these teams have; it may be a matter of time when they put up a spirited fight against the dominance of the game by countries in the extreme of North and South hemisphere.