We got to the meeting fashionably late and we were brought into the offices of the arena. Inside, the coaches of all of the other teams and the tournament organizers were waiting for us, so they could begin their rules meeting. In Mandarin. There were only a few seats available, so I sat in the front row centre, for the rules meeting. In Mandarin. I tried to pretend I knew what they were saying, but I don’t think my active listening approach was very convincing. Apparently, there’s a picture of me in the meeting floating around somewhere. If I can find it, I will post it.
The next day we started the actual game play portion of the tournament and it turned out that the rules meeting must have been primarily about not enforcing any of the rules of hockey that I have ever seen before. In China, the rules in hockey, just like in traffic seem to be merely a suggestion rather than something that’s actually enforced. The Chinese game is much, much more allowing of body contact than we are back in Toronto. So much so, that at one point, I had to ask the one on ice official who spoke english if we were playing with body checking. He seemed shocked when I told him it looked like a Don Cherry video out there.
Another difference in Chinese hockey is that they don’t think twice about running up the score, or more accurately, it doesn’t bother them when the other team runs up the score. In our first game, we were up 6-0 after about 3 minutes of game play. Normally, at this point I would restrain the players a bit in an attempt to not embarrass the other team. Which I started to do. There was even some talk from our manager about trading goalies with the other team and finishing the game for fun. The response to this suggestion from the tournament organizers was, “why would you do that? You’re winning.” followed by “Your under 8 team might lose 15-0.” In spite of this, we did hold the players back a bit. We answered the Chinese physicality, once we realized it wasn’t going to be called and our under 12 team ended up going undefeated in the tournament and winning pretty convincingly in every game.
The under 10 team had a tougher road. The two teams we played against from Beijing were very strong and both beat us in tight games. The “little wolves” beat us 2-1 and the fire dragons beat us 4-1. Both teams played hard and probably outworked us for the most part. After a couple easy games to start the tournament, I don’t think our team was quite ready to face the test from those teams, but all the credit has to go to them and their coaches who were well prepared and talented.