Senior citizen denies Flying Farangs third crown in 5 years

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Bangkok’s own ice hockey team, the Flying Farangs, were trying to win their third City of Angels crown in five years; all that was stopping them was a 62-year-old goalie – and he did.  The keeper for the all-Finnish team, Ukkometsot, Mika Rantanen, which had flown in from Helsinki, stoned the Farangs in the final match as the visiting Finns won the first tournament to be played at the new arena, The Rink, located on the 7th floor of the Central Grand Rama IX shopping mall.

The favourites going into the 35-and-over tourney were the Hong Kong Tigers who had a slew of relatively young forwards (aged 35-39), who skated rings around the opposition in the early matches, making mincemeat of their rivals.  But like the Farangs, the Tigers fell victim to the wily Finnish keeper in the semi-final, exiting the tourney without the Cup they so eagerly coveted.

Tournament champions Ukkometsot are seen in action in their semi-final win over the Hong Kong Tigers. Tournament champions Ukkometsot are seen in action in their semi-final win over the Hong Kong Tigers.

The Farangs meanwhile beat the Kuala Lumpur Cobras in their semi-final game to set up the final match against Ukkometsot.

Flying Farang goalie Jason Cotsmire had a brilliant tourney except for a brief 5-minute span at the start of the final game when Ukkometsot scored three quick goals on him.  It was erringly similar to the 5-minute breakdown the New Jersey Devils suffered in period one of game 6 of the Stanley Cup final when Steve Bernier took a five minute major boarding penalty and the LA Kings scored three power-play goals.

The Farangs did call a time out after the Finns’ three quick goals, but like the Devils were never able to gain the momentum, losing the final by the same score the Devils did, 6-1.

The 15-team tourney was divided into three four-team divisions and one three-team division, with each team playing the other teams in its division before being re-seeded according to their records.

Bangkok entered two other teams in the tourney and the second-seeded Bangkok team reached the semi-final of the consolation championship (eventually won by Beijing), while the third Bangkok team, composed – ironically – mostly of Finns, saw an early exit from the tourney as they were unable to muster much scoring power.

The highest-profile player in the tourney was Jay North, who had flown in from Texas to play for the Singapore Hawkers (Singapore like Bangkok, entered three teams in the tourney).  North, a Minnesota high-school stand-out, was selected 63rd overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1980 entry draft, ahead of future NHL stars like Jari Kurri, Bernie Nicholls, Steve Larmer, Steve Kasper, Hakan Loob & Andy Moog.  His NHL career never did pan out, but people still talk about the way he dazzled the crowd in his high school days.

All the matches on the final day were televised live on Thai TV and the rink was a beehive of journalistic activity with cameramen, photographers and writers everywhere.  Tournament organizer Scott Whitcomb and his team at Jogsports did an outstanding job of running the event.  And the Rink, which was still trying to air out its kinks was able to withstand the heavy schedule of morning to late-night matches despite Bangkok’s heavy humidity.

For more information about ice hockey in Thailand, go to website: www.jogsports.com.