Cool as ice
Speeding across the ice, Terry Ng Tsz-him, 7, slams the puck into the net. The Primary One student is one of dozens of Hong Kong Academy of Ice Hockey (HKAIH) members who train at the Dragon Centre Sky Rink in Sham Shui Po.
Attracted by the speed and excitement of the sport, Terry took up ice hockey three years ago. He explains his winning tactics: 'You have to maintain your balance and keep the hockey stick still. Your legs have to work hard to propel your body forwards while chasing the puck.'
While many young western players are well-built, Norman Chin, head hockey coach at MegaIce, Kowloon Bay, says Asian children's slighter figures need not be a disadvantage.
'Unlike western hockey where 'checking', or using physical contact, is allowed to overcome an opponent, the games played here prohibit intentional physical contact.
'Rather than brute physical force, the sport requires team work, agility and strategic thinking. Some of the best players in Hong Kong are small,' he says.
As play can be rough, players have to take precautions. Elliott Chiu Hiu-tung, 9, explains how he protects himself: 'We play with full protective gear: shin and shoulder pads, helmet, hockey gloves and so on. When I know I'm about to fall, I slump forward [to break my fall].'
As a highly physical and skilled game, ice hockey is particularly good for youngsters.
'It's a fast game. Players need athletic ability. Coming to the rink together as a team, they can learn to trust each other,' says Barry Beck, an HKAIH coach.
While ice hockey is very popular in the west, it has yet to build such regard in Hong Kong due to a lack of places to train.
'MegaIce is the only rink in Hong Kong which meets the requirements of international ice hockey competitions. Before [it opened] last year, there were no such venues,' says Mr Chin.
And as it doesn't get as much media coverage as football or basketball, the sport fails to stir up much attention.
'Local TV stations seldom broadcast overseas ice hockey championships. More coverage ... would put the sport on the youth radar,' says Mr Chin.
Megabox hosted Hong Kong's first international five-a-side ice hockey competition last month. More than 60 teams did battle in front of small but excited crowds. If the sport continues in this vein, there's hope yet for the fast-paced game in Hong Kong.
Inline hockey differs from ice hockey in several respects. While ice hockey is played on an ice rink, inline hockey is played on a low-friction surface. Checking is not allowed, and there are only four players per team, not counting the goalie. Another big difference is the way the field is marked.
'An ice hockey venue is divided into three zones and there are rules governing the movement of the puck between zones. [But] there are no zones in an inline hockey field. Players can receive the puck ... anywhere,' says Dwain Mackintosh, manager of YMCA King's Park Centenary Centre which boasts Hong Kong's only purpose-built inline hockey training area.
This freedom means 'the puck can travel larger distances and players also move faster,' says Mr Mackintosh, meaning a more exciting game.