By Neo Jie Yao
Ice hockey in Singapore? For Singaporeans who are unaware, The Rink at JCube is Singapore’s first and only Olympic-sized ice skating rink, where it can host various winter sports such as ice hockey, figure skating, speed skating and curling.
It is also the home of Singapore’s ice hockey national teams as well as the National Ice Hockey League, which was established in 2000.
We sat down with Tiffany Yeoh, 23, a member of Singapore women’s national team to find our more about her journey in ice hockey so far.
Q: How were you introduced to ice hockey?
TY: The story goes, there was actually just this one day that I was in JCube, and I remember just looking at The Rink and I saw that a portion of the ice was allocated to a group of people who were learning ice hockey.
I approached one of the coaches after the session and he told me this is a Learn to Play Ice Hockey Programme that The Rink holds. I went online to therink.sg and I found all the information there.
Every Sunday, from 5.15pm to 7.15pm for two hours, and the first three quarters of the session is just you learning drills and the last quarter is playing a mini-match. So from there, the coaches carrying out the session, they’re really nice, they took a chance on me and they asked me to try out the training with the women’s developmental team, and from there things really just accelerated and it was amazing. This was about one year ago.
Q: Before you started playing, what did you know about the sport?
TY: I knew it was quite popular in the West, and I actually did watch one NHL match when I was in Canada once. But I didn’t know that much about it, I just knew that it looked quite similar to floorball, just on ice. Since it’s a stick and ball sport, it’s also got some similarities to field hockey and inline hockey (like ice hockey but on roller blades). I’ve actually played field hockey since I was really young and I’ve been interested in mostly stick and ball sports.
Q: What were some challenges you faced as you learned the sport?
TY: A lot of challenges, but I think the biggest challenge for me has been the skating. If I ask any of my seniors or my coaches, they’ll always say that skating is pretty much half of the sport if not more. It’s like the fundamentals, the foundation.
I had a lot of trouble braking suddenly, like making sudden brakes or changing direction quickly, making transition and not losing momentum and just learning how to shift your weight and use certain parts of the blade. The skating was pretty much the biggest challenge and I realised how technical the sport was.
I’m still struggling but the challenge is fun. I think right now what the women’s team does is they allocate one particular training just to skate, and they really focus on skating because they know where we’ll see most of our improvement.
Q: On television, or in the West, it looks like a rough sport. How relaxed are the rules with regards to body contact?
TY: You’re right – I noticed that professional leagues they do allow players to have fist fights, and I was quite shocked by that. I think it’s only allowed in NHL if I’m not wrong. Back here, there’s no fist fights, none of that.
In fact, it looks rough, but I would really say that there have been a lot of steps taken to promote player safety, and there’s a difference between men’s and women’s ice hockey also, because for men’s ice hockey, they are allowed body checking, but not for women, so girls are safe. I think my coaches have told me before, there’s a way to brace for impact. I can’t say whether or not it hurts because I’ve never faced it myself (laughs).
Q: What are some of the misconceptions of the sport?
TY: All the equipment I have, I’m really well-equipped so every time I fall – and I fall a lot – it really doesn’t hurt, so I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions of ice hockey.
Q: What do you enjoy most about playing ice hockey?
TY: I like how there are a lot of elements to the sport, not just skating, stick handling, the dribbling, the shooting, the speed as well as the physicality, how much of a contact sport it is. It’s the fact that there is so many elements and that there’s always something you can work on, that is most enticing to me.
What I enjoy most about ice hockey would definitely be the people. Personally, for my team, the women’s team is quite close-knit I would say. It’s one thing to love the sport, but if you really love the people you play for and fighting for, it just brings it to another level.
It’s also a very warm community, there are people of all nationalities, of all ages, like you get people from America, Canada, Finland, Japan, China, so all over the world, and everyone is very encouraging, they’re really willing to help you out, no matter how inexperienced you may be or how new to the sport you may be.
Q: Trainings are often very late. What keeps you going?
TY: What really keeps me going is just, it’s really cliché, but it’s really the love for the game and I really love the game and love the people.
We don’t have to worry about transportation cost, because everyone works together to carpool as we end trainings past midnight.
Q: What are your goals for your ice hockey career/journey?
TY: For myself, I would really just be happy as long as I’m making some increments of improvement every training, that’s really enough for me. I’m just trying to pursue this as a mark of personal achievement. With regard to the scene in Singapore and what I hope for ice hockey, I hope that I can try help play a part in building exposure.
Right now it’s not really known to Singaporeans. Some people may actually have an interest and they may be eager to pursue this, but they may not know that there are some outlets, some channels for them to actually pursue it.
I just want to help build that awareness as well as hopefully help Singapore’s team gain more international exposure as well. Because if the region actually picks up the sport, since in Asia it’s not as popular in the West, then more tournaments can actually take place for Singapore to participate in that tournament.
Q: On a scale of 1-10, how easy is it to pick up the sport?
TY: On a scale of 1-10, 1 being the hardest and 10 being the easiest, I really can’t rank it, because I would say that it is subjective (laughs). If you are someone whose ice skating is top notch, picking up the sport could be much easier for you, could be an 8, 9 or 10. If you have some trouble with skating, maybe a 5 or 6, but I would never rank anything below a 5.
Because you never know, you may really have natural flair for the sport, and even if you don’t, like if you work and you’re committed to it, I don’t see why you can’t be a really good player.
Q: What advice do you have for people who want to pick up the sport?
TY: One piece of advice that’s always ringing in my head is, again it’s pretty cliche, but it’s really just to persevere, this is what someone told me, sometimes the best rewards come from doing the things that scare you the most.
This is a sport that, you may be worried or afraid that you’re not able to pick it up well, fast enough, you’re worried that the learning curve is very steep. I would just encourage people to look past the fear and to have a little bit of faith in themselves. There are a lot of people here who are really willing to help them develop an interest into a passion. It’s a really welcoming community so I’d welcome anyone to join.
Watch our interview with Tiffany here:
Special thanks to:
Singapore Ice Hockey Association
For more information about ice hockey in Singapore, please visit http://siha.org.sg/.