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Asia Winter Games Hockey Tournament Update

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Martin Merk of IIHF.com provided an update on the Asian Winter Games recently, confirming some of the rumours surrounding some of the teams.  India won't be sending a team, which was actually known, as their federation was disappointed in the whole South Asian Winter Games experience and seemed willing to only fund winter athletes that could medal at the games.  Medalling seems to be an important issue, as the IIHF piece stated:

The probably biggest motivation to perform well was given to the Malaysian team, in a letter from the country’s highest sports authority.

"Bring back a medal and we will build an Olympic-sized ice hockey arena," Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, the Youth and Sports Minister of the country, issued in a statement published by state-run agency Bernama. "We are ready to help the sport and the ministry will do its part to help promote and develop the sport. It is not impossible to see the sport become a favourite among Malaysians one day."

Malaysian hockey is pretty limited currently, with only a couple of rinks in shopping malls to play in, so this would be a huge accomplishment if the government follows through on this interesting bit of motivation.  India recently opened their first full sized rink, and there is some suggestion they will be looking to host the IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia soon.  They are awarding medals for teams in the lower "Premier Division", so 3rd out of 7 teams will get it done, and Malaysia placed 4th at last year's CCOA (which Chinese Taipei won, and they're in the Top Division), so it's within reach.

India's pull-out from the AWG was followed by Qatar, who were going to make their international debut at the tournament after holding their first ever national championship.  I don't know if that event didn't meet the standard they expected, or if it was a funding issue, but the tiny Persian Gulf nation will have to wait for their first tournament.  That could come this June, if the Gulf Ice Hockey Championships occur again.  

There have been some rumours that the Asian Winter Games will mean there will be no Challenge Cup of Asia this year, and the fact that a host has yet to be named for that event lends credence to that theory.  However, the event is still listed as "TBA" on the IIHF website, so we'll have to see.  As you can tell, these national associations don't have a heck of a lot of resources available for funding, so it's definitely possible this event will be all there is for them.  

Puck drops on the 28th with Thailand taking on Kyrgyzstan in Kyrgyzstan's first ever international game.  That's a 1:30 local time start, which is 12:30 AM EST (11 hours difference) for North Americans (Astana is six hours ahead of GMT).  I doubt you'll find any TV coverage of the Premier or Women's Competitions, but who knows.  The other two Premier games that day are Malaysia vs. Bahrain (5:00 PM local) and Mongolia vs. Kuwait (8:30 PM local).  The women's competition also kicks off in Almaty (same time zone as Astana), with South Korea taking on Japan at 2:30 PM local, and North Korea taking on the host Kazakhs at 7:00 PM local.

The schedule can be found here.  And here's the IIHF's Asia Championships page.