SEA Games bronze will do just fine for Malaysia ice hockey team
PETALING JAYA–The Malaysian ice hockey team knows that gold is elusive in the SEA Games so a bronze will be enough reason for celebration.
In the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia did win the bronze with seven points to finish third in the league standings.
In the Philippines, the tournament will follow a single round-robin format for the group phase with the top four teams advancing to the semi-finals.
Malaysia can be expected to advance to the semis but the battle for third place will be a close one, admits team manager Hazurin Harun.
“The four top teams are Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia. Our main competitors for the bronze will be Singapore and Indonesia, who are about the same standard as us.
“Thailand and the Philippines will be too strong for us, but we will still try our best to cause an upset. Currently, we are ranked third in the region.”
Hazurin said a group of about 40 players started training in May, of which 15 were selected for the biennial games.
He said the team has been training five sessions a week on and off the ice, and have taken part in some invitational competitions this year.
“The last competition was the Challenge Cup of Asia in March which we came in fourth after losing to Singapore.
“We may have lost then, but for the SEA Games, the aim is to retain the bronze we won two years ago.”
Hazurin said ice hockey was still considered an elite sport in the country as the equipment could be costly but believes the future is bright if the country has the right people leading the game.
“The national federation try to assist wherever it can in terms of providing equipment for new players on a rental basis. However, there’s no money in ice hockey.
“Apart from the SEA Games, there are no government grants for this sport, so the sport has survived on parental contributions and several corporate sponsors, mainly the owner of the Malaysia National Ice Skating Stadium (MyNISS), the Mammoth Empire Group.
“Clubs are more involved in the development of the game at the grassroots level. The two leading clubs are Rimau Ice Hockey Club and Frostbiters, both of whom have their youth development programs.
“The future is bright if the right mindset grows. There is a lot of support from the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). If everyone works together, the sport can only grow.”
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