It may not be as popular as football or basketball in Hong Kong, but the city has a loyal band of ice hockey fans. Young Post joined some students from S.K.H. Lam Kau Mow Secondary School for an introduction to the sport given by Hong Kong Academy of Ice Hockey. Due to time constraints, we didn’t actually go to an ice rink. But seeing as many of the students couldn’t actually skate, this was a much better decision.
Then we were shown the protective gear. I had always been amazed at how fast hockey players could move on the ice, despite wearing such bulky “armour”, but it turns out it is actually surprisingly light.
Arthur Cheung, the academy’s assistant coach says it is usually made of light, spongy materials to protect the players from getting hurt. Some students were selected as volunteers, and had to put on some of the gear – and then they were hit with hockey sticks. Luckily, the gear did its job, as they said it wasn’t painful at all.
Next we were taught how to use a hockey stick. We were told to grab the stick in both hands, with our dominant hand at the top. We then had to raise our hands to shoulder level, and ensure our hands were shoulder-width apart. Once we lowered the stick, we were ready to play. Cheung told us you can’t swing a hockey stick high when you hit the puck – after all, it’s not a golf club!
Finally it was time to learn the rules of the game so we could actually play. In football, a coin is tossed to work out which side will kick the ball first. But in hockey, a member of each team goes to the centre of the pitch, and face each other. The “ball”, or “puck” as it is called in ice hockey (and actually, it is a small, flat disc, not a sphere!) it put between the players’ sticks. They tap each others’ sticks three times, and then try to be the first to hit the puck out to their team mates.
We then moved to the pitch to have a go at an actual game, under the watchful eye of Robert Kang, one of the academy’s coaches. We were divided into four teams, and each team got to play another for five minutes. This might sound short, but when you’re new to a game, it doesn’t feel it! As all of us were new players, we couldn’t control our hockey sticks very well. We hit the puck all over the place (except where we wanted it to go), and it didn’t move very fast at all. In the end, nobody scored, although this was perhaps to be expected.
Controlling the hockey stick was the most difficult thing we had to do, especially when trying to “dribble” the puck – move it forward by hitting it alternately on the left and right. when wanting to hit the puck in two totally opposite directions consecutively as the Hockey stick is long and not easy to control for new players there. Josie, one of the students on my team, said she’d found playing fun, but that she thought she’d have to practice really hard if she wanted to get good at it.
The most important thing we learned was how team sports like hockey and ice hockey are all about cooperation and strategies, very useful life skills to develop.