I first started skating when I was seven years old in a small rink in northern New Jersey in the U.S. I began my playing career for my recreational town team and made my way up to play AAA youth level travel hockey until I went off to Tabor Academy to play prep school (high school) hockey in Massachusetts. After graduating from Tabor I played NCAA Division III hockey in New Hampshire at Saint Anselm College for four years. Throughout my hockey career in the U.S., I was fortunate enough to have been coached by coaches that cared about my development not only as a hockey player but more importantly as an individual.
Having experienced playing hockey in the U.S. system I was excited to go to Boston last summer with our students. They participated in a prep school showcase for four days and the Pro Ambitions Hockey Camp for the remainder of our time there. Our players learned how physical the North American game is played and how quick the pace is. They quickly learned that having skill is one part of being a good hockey player but being able to use those skills with the speed and intensity separates the good from the best. Those who have those skills plus hockey sense are those that compete at the highest level. It was an eye-opening experience for our players to be part of that camp and to play with and against players playing at the top level of hockey in the U.S.
This past summer I had the opportunity to travel to Stockholm, Sweden with HKAIH coach and staffs. With our most recent partnership with the Swedish Ice Hockey Association, we collaborated with one of Sweden’s most prestigious clubs, Djurgården IF Hockey Club, for an eight-day camp with fifteen of our players aged 10-15 years old and their youth players and coaches. Throughout the camp not only did our players learn new skills and a new approach to the game but we also learned a tremendous amount from their coaches.
The Swedes coach with immense detail and care where clubs and coaches from their youth programs all the way up to the national team work together to ensure quality development of their players. This Swedish model of all the regions and those clubs within those areas working with a common goal is a big reason why a small country, such as Sweden, has been one of the world’s powerhouse hockey countries.
Aside from their structure, the depth in which they coach was an important aspect of coaching that we were able to learn from. The coaching method keeps the coaches focused and involved and simultaneously allows the players that you are coaching to understand why and how to do a specific skill or drill.
Outside of the rink and hockey, we had a great time during our stay in Stockholm. It was chance for our players to bond together while rooming with one another and during the various activities we did around the city. Amongst the memories we made in Sweden, one part of the trip I will never forget was when three of our players lost a tooth and one of those players lost two during our time there. Luckily, they didn’t lose their teeth from a puck to the face but they were all baby tooth that were ready to come out. Another memorable moment came on our first night there. I checked up on our players at around 9 in the evening to make sure they were ready to go to sleep and when I went to the room all the kids were wide awake playing around. When I asked them why they weren’t ready for bed they said “but coach the sun is still up!” During the summer in Sweden, the sun stays up for most of the 24 hours of the day so our players thought it was still early. Our players worked hard at the rink and had a lot of fun with one another which made for an unforgettable experience.
Coach Ying and I had the opportunity to travel up north to Falun where we were able to watch Sweden’s U18 and U17 men’s team compete in an exhibition game against U20 club teams. While we were there we spoke to one of the player development coaches who filled us in about the Swedish Ice Hockey Association and their vision. This past season he noted that the Swedish Men’s National team needed to improve on goal scoring and zone entries. This is then passed down to all clubs and teams starting from their youth teams to help develop this part of the game for all Swedish hockey players. This openness and focus to help elevate specific parts of the game is a testament to their strength at the national level.
Hong Kong is still a developing country when it comes to ice hockey so the teaching priority must be skill based before moving onto more complex parts of the game. Therefore, it is imperative that we use profound hockey countries like the U.S. and Sweden and take the parts from their model which suits our players and the culture of Hong Kong. The grittiness and toughness of the U.S. and the attention to skill and technique of the Swedes are all important aspects of the game that Hong Kong players must embrace.
Robert Kang is a Korean goaltender from Glen Rock, New Jersey. He has 17 years of playing experience in the U.S. where he played AAA youth hockey for the North Jersey Avalanche before going to play at Tabor Academy located in Marion, MA which competes in the USHS Prep league. He most recently graduated from Saint Anselm College, located in Manchester, NH. At this institution, Robert played for the men’s ice hockey team during his four years there. Saint Anselm College competes in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) East league as well as in the Northeast-10 Division II league.
– Named to the NE-10 All-Rookie Team and First Team (2010-2011)
– Named Goaltender of the Year (2010-2011)
– Won the NE-10 tournament becoming Division II National champions (2010-2011)
– Named First Team, Goaltender of the Year (2011-2012)
– Won NE-10 championship and named tournament MVP (2011-2012)
– Goaltending instructor at the Give’em Nothing School for Goaltenders (Totowa, NJ)
– Goaltending instructor for Pro Ambitions Inc