Hockey veteran out to make HK stars on ice - that's quality

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 September, 2007, 12:00am

The quality migrant scheme has attracted two world-renowned concert pianists, an Olympic medallist, a famous actress - and now a Canadian ice hockey coach.

Former NHL all-star player Barry Beck, who played for the New York Rangers, is the latest permanent resident under the scheme.

Beck is part of efforts to create a Hong Kong ice hockey team talented and skilled enough to eventually secure a place in the Olympic Winter Games.

He has been hired by the new Hong Kong Academy of Ice Hockey - the first of its kind in a city not noted for its ice-related sports - set up by Thomas Jefferson Wu, son of tycoon Gordon Wu Ying-sheung.

Beck came to Hong Kong with his seven-year-old son in early July and says he plans to settle here.

He was the only non-Chinese among the 238 successful applicants migrating to Hong Kong through the scheme's achievement-based test since it was launched in June last year.

Applicants can also be admitted under a general points test.

Beck joins Olympic bronze medallist badminton star Zhou Mi, pianists Lang Lang and Li Yundi, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon actress Zhang Ziyi. All have been admitted to the scheme for their achievements in their respective fields.

Beck, 50, played for the New York Rangers in the early 1980s. He said he would enjoy the challenge of creating interest in the sport.

'I had been playing at the highest level and it was time to pass my experiences on and let the younger generations feel the passion of the game,' he said.

'It is never going to be easy to start from scratch. It might take at least 10 to 15 years to see the fruits but every community has to start somewhere,' he added.

Mr Wu said he is convinced that Hongkongers can learn to love the high-octane sport of hockey, just as he did seven years ago.

'We hope to introduce the game to the kids when they are young. It takes time, maybe years, to develop the skills and as a long-term target, I wish we can have a team representing Hong Kong to play in the Olympic Winter Games in 2018,' he said.

Students will be taught basic skating skills before being trained in some advanced hockey techniques. All the equipment, including ice skates, helmets, shoulder pads, gloves and sticks will be provided by the academy at Dragon Centre in Sham Shui Po.

Boys and girls aged six to nine are invited to sign up.

'We are particularly interested to bring the game to those under-privileged kids in the city. They may not be able to afford the expensive equipment and we are going to offer the chance for those who are interested,' said Mr Wu, the chairman of Hong Kong Amateur Hockey Club.

There were only about 500 ice hockey players in Hong Kong - most of them amateurs - and only one ice-rink of international hockey standards, at the MegaBox mall.