Upcoming AHU Presidents’ Day Invitational will see new firsts
This year, Arizona Hockey Union’s 17th annual Presidents’ Day invitational tournament will be the largest ever, seeing 182 teams fight it out for a chance at winning their division.
One of the teams participating in the tournament is flying all the way over the Pacific Ocean.
The Ice Star 09 Energy are coming over from Beijing, China, to compete in the 8U division. This marks the first time a team from outside of North America will take part in the tournament.
Part of the Tiger Hockey Club, under Ice Star Sports Management Co. Ltd., the team was formed in 2015, comprised of 12 players from the 2009 birth year, and have been successful in their early years. They have won three tournaments since inception, the 2015 (Beijing) International Youth Hockey Invitational U6 silver, “China Star” East Asian Youth Hockey Invitational 09 silver, and 2015-2016 Beijing Youth Hockey League 6U champion.
In recent years, ice hockey has begun to grow in China. With Beijing’s successful bid of the 2022 Winter Olympics in 2015 and the creation of the Kunlun Red Stars and entry in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Russia’s professional hockey league back in 2016, ice hockey has been put under the spotlight and has rapidly gained popularity in China.
Ice Star has constructed and currently operates 12 ice rinks in six major cities across China and is involved in making hockey an affordable option for families. Additionally, Ice Star has recruited a large number of talented and skilled coaches from home and abroad and has been tasked in taking the lead of promoting on-ice sports in China.
In 2017, the Ice Stars hosted the 2nd CCM Beijing International Youth Hockey Invitational, where Dr. Catherine Jiang, an Arizona attorney and hockey mom, and partners Lan Shen and Muzi Guo at S Choice Consulting, LLC, led American 14U and 10U teams. During this tournament, Dr. Jiang and Ice Star officials discussed the growth of hockey in Arizona and AHU’s Presidents’ Day tournament. Ice Star management felt that the tournament would be a good fit and they registered.
Ice Star management stated: “We believe that sportsmanship can train young players to work hard and strive for excellence. Ice Stars aims for young Chinese hockey players to gain exposure to higher level opportunities, and this Presidents Day Cup will be a good opportunity for getting the exposure.”
“Ice Star 09 Energy team hopes that through this opportunity, they will have a deeper understanding of the American ice hockey culture and establish a rapport and friendship between Ice Star and Arizona Hockey organizations and create future opportunities for exchange and learning programs,” said Dr. Jiang. “It will be an incredible learning opportunity for young players and for our coaches, too.”
The Ice Star 09 Energy team is set to arrive in Phoenix a week before the tournament and will be taking part in a hockey clinic for the team, put on by AHU. They will also be attending their first-ever NHL games when the Arizona Coyotes take on the Montreal Canadiens and Edmonton Oilers.
Also making the long journey South are the Wolfpack, coming all the way from Yellowknife, Canada in the Northwest Territories. They are only 250 miles south of the Arctic Circle and can see the Northern Lights for over 240 nights out of the year.
The Presidents’ Day Invitational, in addition to the Ice Star 09 Energy, also will see more than 35 teams from Canada attending. The tournament, its largest yet with 371 games scheduled over four full days, will be played at all rinks in the Valley from Feb. 16-19.
For more information, visit www.presidentsdayhockeytournament.com.
— Bryan O’Sullivan
(Jan. 22, 2018)