14 November Siam Hockey League enters its second season
Photography by Tadamasa Nagayama
The Siam Hockey League (SHL), Thailand’s most competitive ice hockey league, started its second season November 12th with a schedule running through to a one-game championship final to be held on March 17th.
SHL season two features a title sponsor (the Sport Corner Bar), thus for the 2017-18 season the league with be officially called the Sport Corner Siam Hockey League. Sport Corner teamed with sister bar Titanium last year to sponsor the championship team.
The season brings two new sponsors, both global brands, Expedia and Hertz, and they will join remaining sponsors Aware (Technology Solutions for Business) and the Sukhumvit Spitfires to form the four-team league.
The early favorites are Expedia (formerly SC Titanium) as captain Mike Wilson, and league-leading scorer and SHL President John Schachnovsky, return along with a core veteran defense, led by Jari Eerikainen and Remo Nyffenegger, which will make this team very hard to beat.
Along with Wilson, all four captains from last year are returning with Justin St. Denis helming the new Hertz squad (formerly Hooters Nana); Patrik Lundback, who last year won the REV RUNNR trophy as the SHL’s best defenseman, is back leading Aware; and Brad Wilson is captaining the Sukhumvit Spitfires again.
Goaltending will again play a huge role in determining this year’s champion. All four keepers have returned from last year, but they have all switched teams. Champion Gabor Toth, formerly with Sport Corner Titanium, will now stop pucks for AWARE, whereas Yves Gaboriault, last year’s AWARE keeper, and winner of the best goalie award, will now be Expedia’s (formerly Sport Corner Titanium) netminder. Lance Parker and Pattarapol “Dream” Ungkulpattanasuk have also switched positions with Dream going to Sukhumvit and Lance to Hertz.
There is a lot of continuity to the league as each of the four team MVPS from last season are back to try and capture the SHL championship. Expedia’s Mike Wilson and Sukhumvit’s Adrian Meyers will continue with their squads from last year, while Brandon Vick moves on from AWARE to Hertz and Michael White moves from Hooters Nana to the Sukhumvit Spitfires.
The league will not only feature the best expat players in Thailand, but a large number of the Thai national team players will play in the SHL this season as will their Finnish coach, the superb blueliner, Juhani Ijas. Earlier this year, the Thai national team won the gold medal in tier 2 of the Asian Winter Games in Sapporo and the silver medal at the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, so the team is cementing its reputation as one of the powerhouse hockey nations in the region. Young Thai players are now playing hockey for competitive teams in Sweden, Norway, Finland and Holland. SHL rookie of the year the past season, Chanokchon “Tan” Limpinphet, a member of the Thai national team, has switched sides this year and will be honing his skills for the Sukhumvit Spitfires, while Yean Ever continues to have the hardest shot in the league and will blast away for AWARE once more.
NHL defenseman and two-time Stanley Cup champion Johnny Oduya has graciously sponsored an annual SHL scholarship and this year’s winner was Chayutapon “First” Kulrat, another member of the Thai National Team. Oduya, who now plays with the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, is friends with many players in the SHL and the league’s MVP trophy is named after him. Last year’s winner, Donny Kerfoot, has moved back home to Winnipeg, Manitoba, so will unable to capture a second-straight MVP title.
The league came about after John Schachnovsky, Scott Murray and Christian Olofsson organized a charity game for the Thai Red Cross in May 2016 featuring NHL defenseman Johnny Oduya. They raised Bt80,000 on the night, but sensing a synergy they decided to try and revive the expat hockey league, formerly known as the Thai World Hockey League (TWHL), which had lain dormant since April of 2015. The three took the titles of President, Vice-President and Secretary, respectively, adding Alasdair Fawcett as Treasurer, Pratch Siridhara as Head of Marketing Sakchai “Jeab” Chinanuvatana as Referee-in-Chief.and then Dom Dumais as head of administration.
They decided to make it a non-profit league, setting out to secure four team sponsors putting any extra revenue they earned back into the league, thereby making it cheaper for players to join the league. They also set out to make sure that the talent was divided evenly on all squads; consisting of 13 skaters and 1 goalie per team, aged 16 and above. Another 20 skaters are listed as substitute players, filling in for those traveling, injured or in other ways unable to play on any given game night. The expats playing in the league come from Canada, the USA, Sweden, Finland and Russia.
Another exciting new feature this season is the SHL Big Chilli podcast, hosted by SHL podcaster Dom Dumais (http://www.domdumais.com/shl-standing/), which will be a weekly recap of SHL action. Dom is a podcaster and vlogger residing in Bangkok.
The 22-game schedule sees matches played on Thursday & Sunday nights at 8:30 and 9:30pm. Admission is free and all games take place at the Rink, 7th floor, Central Grand Rama 9. The two best-of-three semi-finals start February 22nd with the second SHL champion being crowned on March 17th. Rolling Stone Wood Fired Pizza will again present “player of the game” awards to the outstanding player of each game.