To commemorate the power and strength behind hockey, the IIHF launched the Inspire The Next campaign, which showcases women in hockey. The Singapore Ice Hockey Association displays a strong team of women helming leadership roles and overseeing programs that keeps Ice Hockey running in Singapore. This week, we hear the experiences and thoughts of 5 women who have contributed to SIHA in one way or another over the years.

Diane Foo, President

You’ve worn many hats in this community before, as a past player, a game official, a coach and now President. How have your experiences shaped your visions that led the Association to successful progression thus far?

When I was still playing as a player, I’ve experienced championships at our nation’s highest level at that time, which was at the Challenge Cup of Asia level. While wearing the flag on my chest, I’ve always wondered if this is the highest level that our National Team can go, or if there’s a chance we could break this ceiling in my lifetime. It was when I was assigned as a Game Official that gave me the opportunity of World Championships that I realise that it isn’t impossible with a good leadership team. Hence in 2019, I took the leap of faith and ran for Presidency with the aim to build a strong team to make this dream happen.

Under your helm, there had been several positive changes. One of such, is cultivating a great leadership team that led to successful performances in the IIHF World Championships for the Men’s National Team. What is your next goal?

My next goal is to see our Women’s National Team in World Championships, and a substantial pool of kids hockey. It is through the influx younger players that sustains our programs long term. Our Men’s National Team is a testimony of how a good program can cultivate a generation of strong athletes, I hope that under our leadership team, all programs will be able to flourish. Outside of the National Teams, I’m hoping that our Association serves as a warm reminder of home to the expatriates in Singapore.

It is very apparently that many younger Members in this community look up to you as an inspiration. How have you supported another Member of the community through your position as not just a President, but also a senior Member in your community?

It’s very heartwarming to hear that. I think throughout the years I’ve seen many players joined the community because they’re curious about winter sports being played in Singapore. Seeing them grow as a person in this community makes me feel like we’ve done something right as seniors and leaders. My hope for them is that they will pass on the support that they may have felt through me, to their next generation.

Emily Kwek, athlete

You started Ice Hockey from Inline Hockey, but what made you start Inline in the first place, and how did you fall in love with Ice Hockey?

Inline hockey was the first kind of “stick sports” I tired. It all started with roller blading/inline skating in the neighbourhood and a big group of St Patrick’s boys, when my team mates asked if I would like to try the sport. I was intrigued when I saw a video where this sports store was showing inline hockey equipment, so I asked my mum if we can buy a stick and puck for me to play. That year roller balding was really popular, felt like the trend had just started. Played for a year, felt not many ladies competing, so continued with school sports, Netball, and went for under 16 trial. I have seen ice skating during my teens but not ice hockey, so it didn’t really cross my mind to play it.  It was until my 20s, I have decided to play inline hockey again, saw there was a recruitment and a rink to play versus initial years will be basketball courts.

Ice hockey was definitely not my first love, since inline was. As the old inline rink had to make way for the current OTH, it was like what should we do – play ice hockey. The natural transition to ice happened, inline rink closes, and JCube The Rink opened. So most of my teammates from inline hockey started ice together.

You’ve captained the Women’s National Team for several tournaments. In your opinion, how has the team progressed thus far?

I think we are looking great, took mini steps to have the sport progressed forward. We didn’t have Directors heading or championing the teams, but now we’ve made 5 appearances in CCOA (Challenge Cup of Asia), and recently just completed our inaugural Women’s league. If we look back we have come a long way, and they are will be more that the newer team members can benefit from the local development program.

Can you share with us your best memory from a tournament?

Best tournament for me will 2016 CCOA and other club games with my Thai and Canadian mates. 2016 was a memorable one, we did well overall, cause the whole program was more well structured. After 2014 first experience, my teammates and I were putting in a lot of commitment, effort to attend all the trainings, many volunteer coaches gave different kind of additional trainings too. I think this was when it all started to get better, added power skating, stick handling and theory sessions that cover court crafts etc. The feel good factor didn’t came from I played better or someone played better. The whole team comaderie was good, because we all want to improve as a team. With all these started and yield results, current newer team members are going through similar training/program to get better, faster in a shorter period.

Lim Wen Lin, Director of Development (Women's)

We’ve seen a record number of new players since your inception as the Director of Development for the Women’s Program. Can you share with us the programs which you have designed for players in this category, and your strategy in players’ retention? 

As the Director of Development for the Women’s Program, my goal is to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for players of all skill levels and backgrounds. To achieve this, we have introduced a package of introductory sessions aimed at reducing the barriers to entry for newcomers interested in trying out ice hockey. We do not require participants to source their own equipment as our package includes basic protective gears. Our objective is to get them on the ice and let them experience the sport before investing financially.

The introductory sessions not only provide basic instruction on skating and stickhandling but also include opportunities to scrimmage and play games. To retain players and build a strong sense of community within the program, we emphasize the importance of teamwork and camaraderie both on and off the ice. We conduct team training sessions, organize off-ice trainings, and plan social events to foster connections.

As the program continues to grow and develop, we are planning to host development camps and encourage players to participate in recreational tournaments. Overall, my aim as the Director of the Women’s Ice Hockey Program is to make the sport more accessible and enjoyable for all players while building a strong community centered around teamwork and camaraderie.

The Women’s National Team is due to participate in the Asia Oceania Championships coming May, and we’ve caught glimpse of the team ramping up their trainings lately. What was the biggest difference in challenges that your strongest and your most upcoming player face? 

Over the past two years, our women’s ice hockey program has faced several challenges due to unforeseen circumstances. However, we are thrilled to be back in action and preparing for the Asia Oceania Championships in May. Despite the obstacles, the team has shown incredible dedication to the sport, and it’s been inspiring to see everyone put in so much effort in our recent training sessions.

Last year, we saw a surge of new players, which allowed us to meet the minimum requirements for a women’s league and secure our eligibility for the Women’s World Championship. This league has been an excellent opportunity for players to develop their skills and build strong bonds with their teammates. We emphasize the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship, and mutual support in our team culture, and we believe these values are crucial to our success both on and off the ice.

Despite the challenges, our team has remained resilient, and I’m incredibly grateful for their hard work, dedication, and perseverance. Working with such an inspiring and motivated group of players is an honor, and I have no doubt that we will continue to achieve great things together. However, there are still areas where the women’s program can improve and receive equitable treatment, and we are committed to advocating for change and progress in this regard.

When you first came on board as a part of the Leadership team, you’ve shared with the community some great visions that you had for the program, and many of these programs are happening in accordance to what you’ve shared. Can you share with us your favourite activity that you’ve spearheaded, and how you’ve overcame some of the challenges that you faced during these activities? 

As a part of the leadership team, I shared my vision for the program with the community, and I’m thrilled to see it coming to life with the creation of the women’s league. This league is a significant step towards the Women’s World Championship for Singapore, and it’s inspiring to witness the passion and commitment that our participants bring to the ice every day.

However, organizing the league was not without its challenges. One of the most significant obstacles we faced was scheduling games at a reasonable time and finding funds to support it. To accommodate the financial constraints faced by some players, we had to keep league fees as low as possible, which made it difficult to find additional resources to support the league’s operations.

Furthermore, changes to the game schedule halfway through the season resulted in the league having midnight slots. Unfortunately, this made it impossible for younger players to attend the late games. Although we were fortunate to have some parents of players and game officials who volunteered their time to help keep costs down, not everyone could contribute in the same way.

Despite these challenges, I am incredibly grateful for the hard work, dedication, and perseverance that each member of our team has demonstrated. However, it’s important to acknowledge that the success of the league is solely due to the girls in the development program. Their willingness to join the league, even though it is entirely self-funded, is what has made this program possible.

As we continue to work towards the goal of creating a women’s league, we must keep in mind that the objective is larger than any one individual. It’s crucial to remember that the ultimate goal is to put Singapore women into the championship, and we must keep this in mind as we move forward.

Moving ahead, I want to emphasize that this is only the beginning of what I envision for the women’s program in Singapore. Even with the loss of our only rink, we will continue to push for development programs, overseas training camps, and deeper international collaboration. It’s my lifelong commitment to develop women’s hockey in Singapore and take it to levels that we were too scared to dream of. With the support of our community, I am confident that we can make this vision a reality.

Rae Phang, Volunteer and athlete

The first time we spoke with Rae, she displayed an unflagging enthusiasm to the NHL, in particular the Dallas Stars. It came to us as much of a pleasant surprise coming from a Singaporean, but it was when she raised her interest as a volunteer in the Association within her first year in hockey that our eyes were drawn to her. 

You’re only a year tops in the community and you’ve already handled a couple of events and communication pieces on your own. What was your experience like volunteering for hockey?

The experiences have been nothing short of delightful! I’ve been able to meet hockey players from all over the world, and I’ve also been able to pursue my dream of doing ice hockey photography. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to immortalise the memories of these events for the participants. 

What made you come forward to offer your time to the community?

I recognised that the ice hockey community in Singapore was small, and that not many people were even aware of the sport’s existence here. At the same time, I had friends here who were interested in ice hockey but felt like there was no opportunity to learn the sport. When I met Josephine Hamnett, and she asked me to join women’s ice hockey, I decided to delve a bit deeper and see if I could not only learn to play, but also do a little bit extra to support and spread awareness of ice hockey in Singapore. 

You have started learning the sport for yourself too. Can you share with us the technical challenges you faced as a new player, and what was the proudest moment on ice?

As a new player, it’s always difficult to break through the steep learning curve, especially when I’m trying to learn not just the stickwork but also skating at the same time. With a busy and irregular work schedule, it’s not easy to commit to midnight trainings either. However, if you told me a year ago that I’d be able to own a stick and a pair of skates, that I’d get the chance to play for tournaments and leagues, I’d probably have cried tears of joy. It’s been an amazing opportunity and I’m very thankful that I’ve had so much support from friends, family and coaches along the way! 

My proudest moment on the ice would probably be when my LCC team put up a tough fight against a team that was much stronger than us. We were determined to play our best, and we persevered through the odds all throughout the game. We still lost, haha, but once the buzzer sounded, we cheered as though we had won. We had a good team dynamic going, and the unwavering dedication of our coaches, and we did the best we could that game. It was very emotional. It reminded me of why I joined ice hockey in the first place. 

You remind us of what it feels like to be new in the hockey community. How about share with us your aspirations in hockey and what do you want to achieve in years to come?

I hope to help more people gain exposure to the sport, and to be a good teammate and friend to new players in the future! I want to see the sport grow and overcome the obstacles in our way, and I hope to play a part in that as well. On an individual level, I would like to improve my skills and hopefully get the chance to represent Singapore someday! I want to become a version of myself that 2020 me (when I first got into ice hockey) would be in awe of, and also proud of.

Serena Tsang, Game Official

Serena’s been a Game Official since 2018, and since then, she has worked 3 IIHF World Championship and 1 Challenge Cup of Asia in various countries and divisions. She has just returned from her latest tournament held in Israel, and we’ve had the chance to speak to her.

You’ve been a player before picking up the stripes uniform. What is it like being a Game Official compared to being a player?

I think being a Game Official is a total different competition altogether. They always say “the stripes are the third team on ice”. That means we are always competing – against ourselves. We always want to perform better than our previous game, reacting quicker to make the best call etc. As you may know, emotions do run during games, and the On Ice Officials’ job is to keep the game under control. Knowing when to make which call I feel, is the what gives the referee an edge in balancing these emotions in game while keeping the game competitive. These usually will come with time with experience and knowledge of the rule book. And then there’s empathy in trying to understand where the players are coming from, and why they do what they did and what warrants a 2 mins or a 5 mins in the penalty box. Being a player did play a great part in understanding the game from the player’s point of view, but this time it’s not about scoring more goals than the other team, but keeping the game fun for both teams.

Having done a few World Championships now, and worked alongside with Game Officials who have worked the Olympic Games and Top Division, what are the experiences like and how that has inspired you?

I think working the World Championships is a great honour. With every Championship I get to bring home invaluable experience from working with A pool officials that I would otherwise never get. They usually share about situations that they’ve encountered at higher levels, and how we can handle it if we encounter it. Hockey is such a fluid game that anything can happen at any level. Being equipped with experiences learned from an A pool Official gives me better confidence when these situations arises at home. On top of that, seeing them skate and work the games make me want to work harder so that I can possibly join them at the top some day.

What’s the most challenging thing about being a Game Official, and do you have any advice for people who wants to pick up officiating?

I think one of the more challenging thing for me was being mentally prepared when I first started. I wasn’t the best hockey player around, and you would expect the referee to be the better than everyone on ice. Knowing this, I worked extra hard in what I can, be it studying the latest edition of the rule book each year, power skating practices, off ice conditioning, doing more after game reviews, or even watching other tournaments learning from the calls that other officials make. It was very nice for me too, that the community had been extremely supportive. Players can yell at you during the game, but outside of the game, they’ll usually explain to you why they yelled, and there’ll always be something you learn something from it, be it how you can handle these situations better next time, or they actually don’t understand or not updated about the rules. I wouldn’t say advice, but I would definitely recommend anyone who wants to pick up officiating to never be afraid to ask questions (at appropriate times!). It worked quite well for me at least, asking questions!

Share with us your stories! Tag us on Instagram @Singaporeicehockeyassociation, or write in to marketing@siha.org.sg 

More information on InspireTheNext here