On behalf of the China Hockey Group (CHG) we wish to raise a number of concerns about the Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association (HKIHA) and the HKIHA’s role in developing the sport of ice hockey in Hong Kong.
On November 14, 2020, Mike Kan (KAN Yeung Kit 簡揚傑), the 2018-2022 Chairman of the HKIHA, published a public video on YouTube with a number of accusations and misinformation. This video contained false statements about the CHG and has been subsequently taken down. You can watch the video here or view the transcript.
In our view, the video raises concerns about the HKIHA, its professionalism, leadership, lack of results, and whether the ice hockey community is getting the right support from the government.
China Hockey Group has sent an initial letter to the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services (LCSD) regarding this concern, which you can download here, on 2 June 2021 as a follow up to email correspondence with the Leisure Manager (Sports Development) for the LSCD.
Hong Kong ice hockey needs an Association that leads with a strategic vision, acts with transparency and integrity, and works with its’ members for the best of the sport. We wish to see success across the men’s, women’s and junior players and we wish to see government funds being spent wisely on the development of the sport. The first step to achieving this is through an open HKIHA election in 2022.
The China Ice Hockey League (CIHL) established in 2011, is Hong Kong’s elite full contact adult hockey league. The Junior Tigers program is Hong Kong’s premier youth hockey organization featuring the Island League (U7 to U16) and several Elite, Learn to Play and Learn to Skate programs. The CHG is also a Co-Founder of the Greater Bay Hockey League - the first cross border competitive league encompassing organizations from Hong Kong and Southern China. The South China Ice Hockey League (SCIHL) is an adult league for those seeking a more recreational experience. Our community programs work across the continuum of ice hockey development – from introducing children who have never heard of ice hockey to the sport, to bringing in top US and Canadian varsity collegiate talent to both teach the game of ice hockey to local players and raise the bar on the game. The CHG has over 500 players registered across our junior and senior programs representing at least 50% of all hockey players in Hong Kong. We firmly believe that for ice hockey to succeed in Hong Kong, there must be changes to the HKIHA, namely through an open election in 2022 in order to be more representative of the sport in Hong Kong.
To continue to grow ice hockey in Hong Kong, strong leadership is required. We have outlined our concerns below and included a number of questions for each concern that have been raised by several members, parents and players of the Hong Kong ice hockey community.
A) Does the HKIHA understand its role as a government-funded NSA to promote ice hockey in Hong Kong?
We cannot underscore the lack of professionalism demonstrated in Mr. Kan’s decision to release a YouTube video slandering a foreigner running a hockey organization in Hong Kong who made a complaint against the HKIHA. Although the YouTube video does not name me, it is unmistakable to anyone who is part of the ice hockey community that the author is referring to me after watching the video. This is not appropriate behaviour for the sport’s highest official in Hong Kong and reflects incredibly poorly on the HKIHA, LCSD, Hong Kong and the sport.
Mr. Kan’s personal attack is wholly unjustified and it appears that any questions and/or criticism of the HKIHA elicits a personal attack as a response. Since 1994, I have been committed to Hong Kong ice hockey. Together with the other CHG Co-Founders, we have contributed significant financial resources to further the development of the sport in Hong Kong and, predominantly, for local Hong Kong Chinese players
LCSD Response: No Response.
B) What Corporate Governance policies does the HKIHA follow?
The video states that all the information related to the HKIHA can be found on the HKIHA website, but it appears there is no information on the voting membership, board nominations, attendance of individuals at board meetings or policies for inclusion and diversity. What is the exact mechanism to be elected as a full voting membership or to the board?
LCSD Response: NSAa, including the HKIHA, are non-profit-making bodies and registered independent legal entities. They are required to conduct their internal business in accordance with their Articles of Association (AoA) in an open, fair and transparent manner, and NSA’s should make publicly available on their website information regarding their governance structure and operations including their AoA. HKIHA does publish its AoA on their website, in which the mechanism for voting the executive committee member is included. According to the information provided by the HKIHA, they have been carrying out a comprehensive review to their AoA to enhance governance.
C) How does the HKIHA support or cooperate with other ice hockey organizations in Hong Kong for a coordinated national development effort?
There are concerned parents in the Hong Kong ice hockey community that they pay extra for top quality, but unsubsidized programs versus subsidized government programs that do not have the same level of development focus or coaching staff with high level hockey playing experience.
LCSD Response: We had reminded HKIHA to maintain amicable relationship with their affiliated members and ice hockey associations. HKIHA has also been advised to offer their assistance to promote the sport of ice hockey.
D) Why doesn’t the HKIHA follow the successful model of the Hong Kong Rugby Union?
As demonstrated not only by the number of ice hockey players in Hong Kong, but the addition of two new ice facilities opened this year, the demand for ice hockey has never been stronger. However, Hong Kong’s National Senior Men’s team ranking fails to show any improvement:
2020: 48th of 54 2019: 46th of 52 2018: 45th of 48 2017: 44th of 48
2016: 44th of 50 2015: 46th of 50 2014: 48th of 49
While the HKIHA may have the intention to develop ice hockey, it is clear that the organization is unable to improve Hong Kong’s rankings in a meaningful way. We believe that if the HKIHA adopted similar policies as the Hong Kong Rugby Union, the rankings would be in the low to mid 20’s within 3 years.
LCSD Reponse: No Response.
E) What is the HKIHA’s position and policy on National team eligibility and selection?
Some of the issues raised about the HKIHA relate to a number conflicts of interest -- perceived or otherwise – involving the HKIHA. One example is that there is, at the very least, a perception that Hong Kong Senior and U18 Men’s National team members must play on leagues organized by Mr. Kan and his associates to qualify for Men’s team selection.
Another relates to a so-called “Junior National Team” in Hong Kong for U9, U11 and U13 level players which quite simply does not exist in other countries and it is misleading for the HKIHA to suggest that there is a “junior national team” and that there are criteria for selection.
This confusion and misrepresentation appears to create a culture of intimidation by the HKIHA. Families feel they need to sign up for Mr. Kan’s Gold Club in order to be eligible for “national team” opportunities at a junior level. At a minimum, there is a perceived conflict of interest between Mr. Kan’s role as the head of the HKIHA and as the head of member organization, in this case the Gold Club. Would it not be beneficial to the Hong Kong hockey community to have clear and transparent eligibility criteria in a similar as the Hong Kong Rugby Union (please see Appendix E to this letter)?
LCSD Response: HKIHA has posted the Team Hong Kong Athletes Selection criteria on their website. However, the information for try-outs were only posted during the recruitment period. In order to provide clearer and more comprehensive information, HKIHA was advised to refine and improve their website presentation regarding athlete selection.
F) How does the HKIHA allocate government funding for player development?
As noted in B) the results of the National Senior Men’s team are not improving. There are opportunities for National Senior Men’s team members to develop their hockey skills consistently by playing in the CIHL, where they face off against US and Canada varsity university hockey players and players who have been in top major junior leagues in Canada on a weekly basis. The CIHL is the most competitive and only full contact league in Hong Kong which provides great training for the Senior Men’s team but few members participate. We understand certain players do not have the financial resources to play in the CIHL and as a result we have recently announced a subsidy program to waive fees for men’s National team players who are in financial need (please see Appendix C to this letter).
LCSD Response: In 2021-22, HKIHA uses the subvention for conducting squad trainings for youth, men and women teams, including participating in overseas events. They also use the subvention to organize training programmes in the community, local competitions, official trainings and coaching trainings. Besides, NSAs could apply for extra funding for under-privileged athletes for participating in overseas competition and training. HKIHA received subvention from LCSD through the Sports Subvention Scheme (SSS). To obtain the subvention, HKIHA has to submit the programme plan annually for LCSDs assessment and consideration. According to the 2020-21 programme plan submitted by HKIHA, it encompassed squad training and participation in overseas events for youth, men, and women teams, training programmes in the community, local competitions, official and coach training and HKIHA had been deploying the government subvention from LCSD through SSS could be found on the HKIHA website. At the same time, National Sports Associations are not specifically required to organize local competitions/leagues which are recognized by their respective international federations in order to receive government subvention.
G) What is the HKIHA Development Strategy for Refereeing and Coaching?
As with any sport, proper refereeing and coaching are vital for development. The CHG has been keen to support the development of a bona fide referee program and we have been attempting to work with the HKIHA since 2016 on this matter. There is a growing list of referees but it appears that there is limited development and supervision of these referees. We also wish to express our disappointment with the HKIHA’s refusal to support the CHG’s attempts to develop officiating and coaching in Hong Kong when the HKIHA refused to write a letter of support for Mr. Marc Benedetti’s full-time work visa in spite of Mr. Benedetti’s clear qualifications and contributions to officiating. Mr. Benedetti is a Level 5 qualified referee, making him the highest qualified referee in Hong Kong. We were informed that a letter would not be provided because we would not permit Mr. Benedetti to referee for the HKIHA. This is false and we would be happy to provide WhatsApp communication with Leo Kan that makes this clear.
LCSD Response: According to the 2020-21 programme plan submitted by HKIHA, it encompassed squad training and participation in overseas events for youth, men, and women teams, training programmes in the community, local competitions, official and coach training and HKIHA had been deploying the government subvention from LCSD through SSS could be found on the HKIHA website.
H) What are HKIHA’s policies and procedures for availability, booking and associated costs for the Skating Treadmill?
The CHG welcomes the addition of the skating treadmill, which we understand the HKIHA purchased with funding from the Home Affairs Bureau. While the CHG and other hockey organizations previously enjoyed the use of this valuable piece of equipment, the CHG has, in recent years, been unable to secure bookings for its use as the calendar is always full. The HKIHA has communicated that the National team players are using the treadmill extensively, but we have heard from players that usage is limited. However, the 2018 Budget Plan outlines treadmill training costs of HKD 281,153.10 for Men and HKD 350,062.50 for Women.
LCSD Response: According to the information provided by the HKIHA, the skating treadmill is not owned by the HKIHA. They hired the equipment from an independent provider on a sessional basis, of which the cost is subvented by the Home Affairs Bureau.
I) How does the HKIHA intend to address the present lack of an officially recognized IIHF League for Men’s hockey?
The CHG and the HKIHA had discussed the possibility of making the CIHL Hong Kong’s Official IIHF Recognized League that would qualify Hong Kong to participate in the World Championships. These discussions started in 2014 and we were advised that the HKIHA had submitted a CIHL funding proposal to the LCSD. We were subsequently informed by the HKIHA that all player and sponsorship revenue would have to be run through the HKIHA as mandated by the LCSD. Is this the LCSD’s stated position and policy for all NSAs? We wish to ask if our submission was received and if yes, the next steps from the LCSD in this process. In May 2021, we provided another submission to the HKIHA requesting that the CIHL be Hong Kong’s Official IIHF Recognized League (please see Appendix C to this letter).
LCSD Reponse: According to the 2020-21 programme plan submitted by HKIHA, it encompassed squad training and participation in overseas events for youth, men, and women teams, training programmes in the community, local competitions, official and coach training and HKIHA had been deploying the government subvention from LCSD through SSS could be found on the HKIHA website.
J) What kind of support is provided by the HKIHA for the Women’s Ice Hockey Association?
The CHG has been assisting the Women’s Ice Hockey Association (WIHO) this year with coaching and it is our view that the women’s game should be prioritized equally with the men’s game. As diversity and inclusion are prominent global issues, we would like to better understand how women’s hockey is supported in Hong Kong.
LCSD Reponse: No response.