Why I Play series: Ice hockey player Liu Zhi Yang

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SINGAPORE — When it comes to ice hockey, Singapore has always played second fiddle to Malaysia in recent head-to-head battles.

At the 2017 SEA Games, for example, the Singapore national team were convincingly beaten 2-8 by Malaysia. But just a few months ago, they avenged that loss with a 4-0 win in the IIHF Challenge Asia Cup.

National player Liu Zhi Yang, who has been playing ice hockey for about a decade, sits down with Yahoo Singapore and explains why he is excited to see the development of the sport, especially with the recent infusion of young blood into the team.

Liu Zhi Yang has been playing ice hockey for almost a decade. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)

Q: How did you get involved in this sport?

A: I actually started by playing roller hockey when I was about 16. After a couple of years, one of my teammates introduced me to ice hockey. I fell in love with the sport and have been playing ever since.

Which muscle groups are most involved in this sport? Which part of your body ache the most after a training session or competition and why?

Ice hockey involves the hamstrings, core muscles and glutes. I would say my legs ache the most after training and competition, because ice hockey involves a lot of short explosive bursts of energy. Think of it like sprinting. A line of players are on the ice for a minute and a half at most, and we go all out, and then we come off the ice and go to the bench for the next line to come in. The intensity is really high.

Tell me the biggest misconceptions people have of this sport.

People often believe that ice hockey is a really violent sport, and it's known most for players fist fighting on the ice. However, that doesn't happen much at international competitions and is often frowned upon. It's only in the NHL (National Hockey League) where fighting is kind of part of the game.

Liu Zhi Yang feels that many people have a misconception that ice hockey is a violent sport after seeing the punch-ups in the National Hockey League on TV. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)

In playing this sport, what has been your most memorable experience?

My most memorable experience was when we did the athlete march-out at the Asian Winter Games in Japan. The atmosphere was amazing and there were lots of spectators and people cheering.

Your most heartbreaking?

Most heartbreaking moment would be our loss to Malaysia, when we were competing for the first time at the 2017 SEA games. We really wanted to bring home that bronze medal that year.

One of the most heartbreaking moments for Liu Zhi Yang was when the Singapore national team lost out on the 2017 SEA Games bronze medal to Malaysia. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)

Share an inspiring story you have of a tournament or an experience with teammates that made you love this sport even more.

In this year's IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia in Kuala Lumpur, we brought our youngest team to date and we came in third, our highest achievement ever for ice hockey.

It was very inspiring because the youth players coming up had displayed a lot of drive and energy that the team really needed and we got our revenge against Malaysia, when we beat them in the bronze-medal game.

Was there a time you felt like walking away from the sport? What made you stay?

Yes, there were times where I felt like stopping playing ice hockey. I was actually contemplating this last year. However, I realised that if I didn't play ice hockey, I would miss it too much. Besides, it made me happy whenever I played.

So despite the huge commitment and late hours we train at, I decided to keep at it and keep training and playing for the national team

Liu Zhi Yang has to juggle between work and late training hours for his sport. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)

Worst injury experienced?

I once broke my hand and was out for a couple of months.

What life lessons has this sport taught you?

It has taught me discipline and determination. Often in ice hockey, usually in the last period of the game, when you're all gassed out, you have to force yourself to skate hard for your team.

How can people get involved if they’re interested in this sport?

There's a Learn to Play programme at JCube Ice Rink and it welcomes people of all ages and experience. From starting to skate on ice, to more intermediate lessons for ice hockey.

Can you tell me in one sentence why you love this sport and fill in the blanks of this sentence.

Ice hockey is a pure adrenaline rush. There are so many components. I love the combination of skill and speed involved in skating, dribbling and shooting as well as the team aspect of the game, and this is why I play.

The pure adrenaline rush of ice hockey is the key reason why Liu Zhi Yang plays his sport. (PHOTO: Stefanus Ian)