The Phuket Ice Hockey Tournament was the brain child of Phung Ponglerkdee, the organiser and captain of the Thailand Women's Ice Hockey Team.
“We have to go to Bangkok to play [ice hockey], we have many teams who play there. One student who lives in Phuket and plays with us, they told me about the arena in Phuket so we did our first tournament last year,” Phung told The Phuket News.
That first tournament, held at the end of August 2018, saw about 20 teams compete across several age categories. This year's edition saw just 15 teams compete, as there was another tournament in Bangkok where others decided to register, but the Phuket competition still attracted enough people to have Under-8, Under-10, Under-13, and an Open Adult age group.
Players as far as Japan come to take part while a Singapore-based team brought enough people for two squads, their U-10 & U-13 teams.
“It's just a great opportunity to start the season. Many of the kids have played a little throughout the summer, or have not played at all so it's good to get the kids together in a great atmosphere and work out the kinks,” said Singapore Ice Dragons coach Troy Gerry.
From the referees certified by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), to the scores of parents who take countless photos and videos, to the organiser who keeps everything humming along with little to no issues, the Phuket Ice Hockey Tournament more than a well-run competition, it's a chance for hockey to spread in Thailand.
"I just love hockey because it's like an exotic sport. It doesn't get as much love like football, it's very similar sport to football, but, not to brag, I think hockey is more interesting than football," said 12-year-old Finley, a defenseman for the Bangkok Zeus squad.
The tournament in Phuket is just a small part of the Thailand ice hockey calendar, with more competitions taking place in Bangkok, and semi-professional leagues that serve as feeder programs for the Kingdom's national teams. Phung herself started playing at 12-years-old, and now, 22 years later, says the sport has grown.
Her experience comes in handy, especially after leading the Thai women's team to a gold medal finish at the 2019 IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia tournament in Abu Dhabi this past April.
"Seven years ago I started to do ice hockey games for kids in Thailand. When we started, there was just only 30 kid, not all the same age. Now, there's more than 300 kid ice hockey players. Here, there are only 70 at the moment," Phung said.