Forget sealing million-dollar business deals, or managing thousands of staff for a multinational corporation, there is much more on the line when ice hockey pride is at stake.
Tucked away in a nondescript building next to Hongkou Football Stadium is a skating rink where every Sunday some of the city's keenest hockey enthusiasts do battle to decide who rules the ice in Shanghai.
The Shanghai Hockey Club was established four years ago and now has more than 100 players and a six-team league. The club also has its own Website showing the league table and player rankings for goals and assists.
Club committee member Mark Andrews, a Canadian, says the players closely follow the rankings and it's competitive for team bragging rights at the end of the season.
"On the league nights when we all have our uniforms and the teams are there and we have points, the guys get really into it," he says. "We have guys who are everywhere from an English teacher to directors of multinational companies and they get right into it."
While the club plays non-contact, Andrews says the competitive nature of the sport sometimes spills over.
The club's Website recently reported that a player had been banned for a year for a "mohawk chop" with his stick. But Andrews says such incidents were extremely rare.
"We play non-contact but, having said that, there is always some contact in this type of sport and you have a guy with a stick in his hand so tempers sometimes flare," he says. "It's always a hard competitive game but we have a drink afterwards."
Seventy-five percent of the club's members come from North America and 20 percent from Europe. Richie Shen is one of the Chinese locals who make up the remaining five percent of the membership.
Shen says he became interested in ice hockey about three years ago when he started playing roller hockey with some Japanese friends. Having never ice skated before, Shen says he quickly picked up the sport. "I enjoy it. It's a friendly environment and it's good to be involved in sports," he says.
The club caters for a wide range of skill levels and holds shinny hockey on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights for members who still want to play but are looking for something a bit more relaxed than the regular league games.
Canadian Colette Vroom is one of the club's three female members and she said shinny hockey-a modified form of the game commonly played on the streets of Canada-was a good introduction to the sport.
Originally a figure skater, Vroom says better players at the club helped those learning the sport. "A friend of mine tried to talk me into playing and I finally relented," she says.
"I was pretty nervous coming into it because there are only a few other female players but the guys have been really great and are very encouraging."
The club is looking for goalies and sponsors and can provide all the equipment. Goalies play for free.
"All skill levels, ages, nationalities, gender and drinking abilities are welcome," says Andrews.
The club sends teams to Hong Kong and Taipei and players from other cities like Beijing sometimes join the Shanghai players.
It competes in international tournaments in Asia including Bangkok and Singapore and has traveled as far as Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. A full-contact meet in Mongolia is coming up.
For expats in Shanghai, the opportunity to play ice hockey in China adds to the richness of their experience.
"It's phenomenal-when you are playing you forget where you are," Andrews says. "There are sometimes not a lot of physical activities to do in Shanghai other than drinking and eating, and you're working. So to be able to play a sport on ice in Shanghai is amazing."
Want to play?
Shanghai Hockey Club
Venue: Rink near Hongkou
StadiumShinny hockey: Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, 9pm-11pm.
League games: 8pm-11pm.
Contact: David Johansson
Tel: 139 1738 2385
For more information visit www.icehockeyshanghai.com.
(Shanghai Daily January 25, 2008)