Kazakhstan making strides
Kazakhstan’s female national hockey team has a lot to learn about the game.
That’s the opinion of Nancy Wilson, a former coach with Hockey Canada who mentored the team during their two-week visit in Canada.
Still working on basic skills, there were mixed feelings about their play during two losses against the Okanagan Hockey Academy female midget team.
“Obviously they wanted to do better. They understood in coming here that it was going to be a challenge,” said Wilson. “This was only the fifth time they have played together. They have very young players that have not played the game at an international level.”
While some players remain from when they competed in the Salt Lake City Olympics, others have only played for six months. Veteran players have been replaced by teenagers.
OHA coach Rebecca Russell said Kazakhstan has a great group.
“Young group with a ton of potential,” said Russell. “They want to learn, get better and are dedicated to it. Great to see. It was such a great experience for our girls to play them this past weekend. We hope we get the opportunity to do it again sometime.”
Wilson said the Kazakhstan coaches were impressed with the OHA’s play.
“They would like to take all of them back in their suitcases,” joked Wilson. “They were here for two weeks and the girls were crying when they left. They just had a really great time. A wonderful eye opening experience for them.
“Their coaches just love to learn, they are like sponges,” she added.
The players left knowing that they have to get to another level.
While Kazakhstan has work ahead of them, they are also dealing with the pressure of losing the sport while they strive to achieve better results.
Wilson said there is money in the country for sports, but there is an hour glass on their development time.
“They are looking for Canadian players to go over there and help develop,” she said of the country with 400 registered players. “Not to take the place of players, but help raise the level.”