Jill Reichenbach double rostered on Squirt and Girls teams before her family relocated to Singapore last year. We followed up with her to share the experience.
When I told my 10 year old daughter, Jill, that our family would be relocating from Wilmette to Singapore, her first desperate question was, "Can I still play ice hockey?!" I had done my research, so I confidently responded with a resounding "YES!" Singapore, an island about the size of Chicago, has a single youth league -- the Ice Dragons. With that affirmation, Jill was on board with the impending move.
Having now lived in Singapore for eight months, I realize that my response to Jill's question more accurately should have been, "Sort of." Located just one degree above the equator, Singapore has two seasons: hot with high humidity, and even hotter with higher humidity. In other words, ice hockey is not a natural fit. Nevertheless, the island does have one regulation size ice rink. It is located . . . wait for it . . . on the third floor of a shopping mall. On the upside, this means that I can get some power shopping done while Jill practices. On the downside, ice time is incredibly precious, so when the rink stands to make more money holding public skate hours than from the Ice Dragons, for instance during the entire month of December when local schools are on break, team practices are cancelled. Just as the Wilmette Braves are starting a grueling schedule of practices and games, the Singapore Ice Dragons are starting a long nap.
When the Dragons wake up, you may wonder where they manage to find other teams to play. Here is where things get interesting. Game play is entirely tournament based, so by the time the school year ends, Jill and I will have traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Hong Kong for tournaments. Jill also will have played teams from Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines, and China in a Singapore-based tournament. The level of play is incredibly varied, but suffice it to say that none of these players will be heading to the NHL.
Given that Singapore has a vibrant expat community, it is hardly surprising that many of Jill's teammates have Canadian or US roots. Luckily, as Singapore has a dearth of professional ice hockey coaches, Canadian and American dads with some hockey experience under their belts are more than happy to step in.
As a girl playing ice hockey, Jill is one of only a handful. Jill's girl friends at school tend more toward swimming (even synchronized swimming if you can believe it), gymnastics, or netball (a strange basketball derivative). I am happy to say that Jill does have one girl friend who is playing in Singapore's first girls' tackle rugby league, but I digress. Luckily, Asian youth ice hockey does not permit checking, so Jill should be able to continue playing on a boys' team as long as we stay in Singapore.
While it still has a long way to go, ice hockey is gaining popularity in Southeast Asia. Competition among the countries is "heating up" (sorry, I had to), and for the first time in its 29 year history, the 2017 Southeast Asian Games (like a mini-Olympics) will include ice hockey. While Jill and I both miss the incredible camaraderie of Wilmette Ice Hockey, we are grateful that in Singapore she can head to the mall with hockey bag in tow, escape the stifling heat for an hour or two, and continue to play the game that she loves -- even if it only "sort of" measures up to the experience she had playing the game in and about the Windy City with Wilmette Hockey.