Spotlight on... the Bear Fighters
The Bear Fighters discuss their history, philosophy and why the HKAHC must do more to level the playing field
9th January 2017
The Bear Fighters converge for a pep talk prior to taking on the unbeaten Zerve Spartans in their final game of 2016.
Since its inception in 2001, the Hong Kong Amateur Hockey Club (HKAHC) has come a long way in promoting ice hockey in Hong Kong.
Apart from the Principal Standard League, which is the highest level of competitive local ice hockey, it boasts various women's and youth leagues alongside an amateur league, which is divided into a Novice and a Regular Division.
The Club has also come to amass a membership of over 400 ice hockey enthusiasts, with a steadily increasing core of local players alongside American and Canadian expats.
We caught up with Andy Mak, who is the starting goalkeeper for the Bear Fighters. His team ended their second season on a high last year by winning the Novice Division, subsequently deciding to take the leap into the Regular Division.
Andy Mak stands firm against a Spartans attacking spell in the second quarter.
Q: Who are the Bear Fighters?
The three main characters responsible for the formation of the Bear Fighters are Alton (Ka Fai), Uncle Wing and Jim Liu. Uncle Wing was Alton's mentor and the three of them have been playing hockey in Hong Kong for significant period, though not on the same team.
In particular, Uncle Wing and Jim Liu's children have followed in their fathers' footsteps and decided to team up with Alton to form the Bear Fighters. We are now comprised of locals, some of whom took up ice hockey during their time in North America.
Ultimately, what unites us and gives us our identity is a burning love for the game, not so much the stats and trophies. We are not ones to point fingers and blame each other if things go wrong and these are among the reasons why I enjoy playing for the team.
Q: How did you get into the sport and why pick goalkeeper?
The popular sport at the time was of course soccer, no doubt due to the Japanese anime series 'Captain Tsubasa' and I only came across ice hockey as a 12 year old when I moved to Toronto.
I was first introduced to floor hockey and immediately fell in love with the game, even more so when I attended 'live' NHL games where the atmosphere was incredible! We would strap on our skates in the winter and play without pads on a frozen pond, which is how I learned to ice skate. It certainly made us tougher and accustomed to taking and giving hits.
I alternated between attack and goalie while playing on roller skates when I was 16 and it was shortly after, when I joined a group of players who organised ice hockey games every Saturday, that I made the choice to remain in goal. I just prefer the feeling of blocking pucks to scoring goals, but definitely not when they fly past me!
Q: Why has this season proven particularly difficult compared to previous ones?
Most of us feel that while moving up a division naturally brings us into contention with tougher competitors and we have to expect to work much harder to achieve a result.
However, our task is not helped by the fact that the HKAHC has done little to properly enforce the points system, which was created with the intention of preventing an imbalance in the league wherein certain teams accumulate an excess of players with experience playing in the U.S. and Canada.
This reluctance to act stems from the fact that it is us who have to come up with the money to participate and that we can be easily replaced by any of a long waiting list of teams looking to join the league.
As a result, there is little semblance of healthy competition when teams are allowed to exploit these factors in view of their financial support for the league, comfortably scoring 8 goals a game and achieving shutouts on a regular basis.
Q: What do you make of the state of local ice hockey at a formative level and what should be changed?
Unfortunately, based on my experience playing in Canada, Hong Kong ice hockey is a long way from making an impact on an international level. The major problems can be narrowed down to how it is being coached at a young age; not enough emphasis is being placed on teamwork and many young players are too individual-minded to play in a team.
This is exacerbated by the competitive parenting culture in Hong Kong. I have seen parents force their children into ice hockey just because of how 'cool' it looks, berating the coach for assigning a defensive role for their children and having a go at other kids for 'not being good' enough to play with their own.
At the end of the day, this is what has to change at a grassroots level- a greater focus on values such as teamwork.
22nd January 2017
Bear Fighters vs Neway Wildcats