Young ice hockey players in training look more like a well rehearsed troupe of dancers, than gunners at a shooting gallery. Instead of short dashes and slap shots right at the goal, they jockey for position, search for openings and time their passes. Which is the point of their training.
Young Post caught up with Hong Kong's future icemen and women at Mega Ice last month. They were having their first live practise match.
Under the Jockey Club Ice Hockey Generation Next programme, organised by the Hong Kong Amateur Hockey Club and funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, junior players are taught to be team players, something that coach Robert Kang Ilgu tries to hammer home. "The style and attitude is very different from the US, it takes patience." He says. "There's a bit of a star player mentality that you need to get rid of with off ice training. One man can't beat a team."
Training time is tight. Players can only expect to get two hours on the ice weekly, and every minute counts. "There is a lack of rinks, so it's tough to develop there. But it's a good start and we’re gradually improving." Kang says. "There's lots of potential here."
He says many students enjoy sport, and the ones he is teaching are doing well. "The sky’s the limit."
Boyce Wong Chun-yeung, 13 of Sha Tin College thinks the training he gets with Kang is more systematic and serious than at the casual clubs. "It's step by step training of individual skills. Off ice, we do a lot of physical conditioning. Physical stamina is very important in a hockey match." As a goaltender, he also needs to outwit his opponents, "A goaltender leads the defence and makes calls [decisions in the game which he has to tell to his team]. It's about communication."
Andres Law Ying-wang, also 13, states "It's very all round training. We do push ups, sit ups and jogging. Passing, puck handling and shooting drills. And teambuilding exercises on top of that. Normal clubs only do on ice training."
Wan Chun-kit, 16, a student of American International School notes his improvements are all round. "It's hard to say one thing has improved the most since we've worked on everything. But teamwork is pretty obvious improvement. With practice, you don't need to look where you teammates are, you can just feel them."
Jerry Cheung Po-wang, 15, International Christian Quality Music Secondary and Primary School (ICQM) agrees, "With limited time on the ice it's hard to communicate, you have to play by feeling."
Overall, the players are satisfied, but still wish there was more actual hockey involved.
"The coaches put in a lot of work and give us individual attention to help with our mistakes." says Boyce.
"Yes, the coaches help us with a lot of care," adds Andres, "but I wish we had more ice time and matches. The usual one hour isn't enough."
They recommend ice hockey as a sport to anyone. Wan says "Start playing and see if you like it." While Jerry jokes "You can start by learning how to skate."