I talked with the Vice President of the International Ice Hockey Federation, Aivaz Omorkanov about Mongolian ice hockey development and the Ice Hockey U18 Asia and Oceania Championship which was recently held in Mongolia. He was elected as Regional Vice-President Asia & Oceania on 25 September 2021. Before being elected into the IIHF Council he served as General Secretary as well as Public Relations Manager for the Ice Hockey Federation of the Kyrgyz Republic. When he was visiting Mongolia, he received the honor “The Medal of Friendship” from the president of Mongolia, Ukhnaa Khurelsukh on March 17.
How do feel about coming to Mongolia? What was your first impression?
It is not my first time coming to Mongolia. My first impression of Mongolia was really good. Mongolians always welcome me in a friendly manner. Also, Mongolia and my country (Kyrgyzstan) have a common culture and nomadic life. I like Mongolia. Except for the traffic jams, everything in Mongolia was good. We got fantastic hospitality from the Mongolian Ice Hockey Federation (MIHF). As an IIHF vice president, I am here to see the progress and development of ice hockey in this region. Also, I am impressed by how the MIHF organized this tournament.
Have you played hockey before?
I had been playing ice hockey for five to six years in Kyrgyzstan. Then I left because I needed to study.
What was the reason for organizing this tournament in Mongolia?
Our federation discussed a lot about organizing this tournament in Mongolia. I have received amount of requests from the MIHF. We have Asia and Oceana Committee Member who is from Mongolia. He is A.Mergen, an expert. Having the Steppe Arena in Mongolia opened the possibility for MIHF to organize this tournament. We would like to allow the promotion of ice hockey games in Mongolia. That’s why we decided to host Asia and Oceania U-18 Championship 2023 in Mongolia.
How is organized Ice Hockey U18 Asia and Oceania Championship?
I think the MIHF and organizing committee did an outstanding job to organize this competition. I can see a lot of people involved in the organization. Office workers, statistic workers, volunteers, security guards, etc. So far, we did not have any big issues. The opening ceremony was fascinating. We had fantastic, worth seeing, and tremulous matches like the Mongolian team versus United Arab Emirates and Uzbekistani teams.
If you consider the team of Mongolia, how are they playing ice hockey?
The Mongolian national ice hockey team especially in U-18, I think, started the tournament well. Every sport has to win and lose. They won the bronze medal. A.Mergen coach taught, trained, and advised them very well.
Did you ever see the match with the Mongolian team? Is there any difference between the past and now?
I did. It was 2011. There was no ice hockey rink. Almost twelve years later, Mongolians have a lot of achievements and a big difference in ice hockey sport. At the time, Mongolia has some ice hockey rinks and an arena. I went through the ice arena, and I saw the potential of ice hockey in Mongolia. Also, for the national team of Mongolia, there was a huge difference between the past and now. Looking at the national team that participated in this tournament, they were playing like a team. All athletes from the Mongolian team were proficient and skilled. For me, the captain of the Mongolian team played well than the others.
Who was the best player and which was the best-played team for this tournament?
I cannot conclude that this team was good and that team was bad. But in the course of the matches and statistically, as I observed, the Uzbekistani team played consistently good matches, so it can be said that the Uzbekistani team was good. As a player, the captain of the Uzbekistani team, a number of 88, defender R.Jasurbek, should be highlighted. He is accomplished and skilled. All of us could see his level of stick and puck-handling skills of him. He was born in Uzbekistan and also practiced in Czech Republic.
I heard ice hockey players spend a lot of money on equipment. Is ice hockey an expensive sport?
Hockey, according to many surveys, is the most expensive youth sport. The athlete will pay a high price to get the first set of excellent equipment. Ice hockey is expensive as it requires a lot of equipment, renting ice time has high costs, a full hockey team needs many staff members, and traveling to out-state or country tournaments is common. Also, hockey teams provide insurance for the players, reflecting on the monthly fees. Most people who play hockey play for their interests and passion. Although financial problems are faced by hockey players, I think they overcame them somehow because they play for themselves and their dreams.
What is the attractive thing about playing hockey?
It is quicker, and harder-hitting and the atmosphere in the cities and arenas makes it some of the most exciting games to watch. It takes cooperation, teamwork, and respect to succeed on and off the ice. Hockey teaches those skills, while also creating new friendships. Playing the sport regularly will help you to gain a good level of overall cardiovascular fitness and will develop your lower body strength and improve your reaction times and hand-eye coordination. It's also really good for developing teamwork as hockey, just like football.
Do you have any words to say to youths who are interested in playing hockey in Mongolia?
Ice hockey is a really good sport that helps you to be disciplined, especially when you are in child. Because it is a team sport. You will be the spirit of the team, learn to lose together, and win together. Also, Mongolia is very cold in the winter season. Ice hockey will fit into the Mongolian atmosphere and culture. Mongolians are good at wrestling and judo. Ice hockey is like wrestling on an ice rink. You have to feel your body movement, field position, puke, and opponent. As far as I can see, I think that Mongolian children and youth have full potential and ability to play ice hockey sport. Especially, after this tournament, I believed this more. Ice hockey is a true sport. Sometimes you can see a simulation of a football match. But in this sport do not have things. If you try to fool your opponent, you will be just knocked out. This is the reason why I love this sport.