Warm hearts do good work on ice
by K I Woo

K I Woo talks to a spokesman for the Bangkok Flying Farangs ice hockey team about his group's special charity missionAs we approach the end of another year, many fortunate business people are sitting back and counting their blessings.

Despite a slow and gradual recovery from the unprecedented Asian economic crisis, many individuals and businesses have had a good year.

Because Thailand is still a developing country, many less fortunate people are still having a difficult time making ends meet.

Kevin Hall, a spokesman for the Bangkok Flying Farang ice hockey team, said that his group has for the past eight years turned a fun recreational-event into a top-flight charity event for successful businesses in Thailand.

"This year our Thailand Charity Ice Hockey tournament was held on October 30 to November 2, at the Bully Sky Ice Arena in Chiang Mai," he said.

The Thailand Charity Ice Hockey tournament annually raises funds for Father Joe Maier's Human Development Foundation, which has for past several decades provided immeasurable help to Bangkok Kong Toey slum dwellers.

This year, Canadian Ambassador, Andrew McAllister again flew up to Chiang Mai and dropped ceremonial pucks for both the Asian and the International finals.

The Bangkok Flying Farangs are a group of expatriate businessmen who enjoy playing recreational ice hockey. "We play every Sunday in Bangkok," Hall said.

Currently, the Bangkok Flying Farangs includes players from nine different nationalities. Every Sunday, the local group pays about Bt250 each and plays ice hockey at a Lard Prao arena for several hours. "We have Finns, Canadians, Swiss, Germans, Thais, Japanese, Americans, Swedes and a Chilean, who share one thing in common - a love for hockey," Hall said.

Hall, whose real-job is Amari Hotel Group's chief financial officer, said that more than 16 teams from many parts of the world will play in this year tournament. "This is the tournament's eighth year and we have had to turn down teams," he said.

The Thailand Charity Ice Hockey tournament this year featured 225 recreational ice hockey players from such far away places as Finland, Switzerland, Dubai, Beijing, Okinawa, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and of course Thailand.

All the teams played in two separate divisions. An international division will be for expatriates from the respective cities while local Asian players will fight for an Asian division trophy. "This year four Thai teams played for the Asian division championship," he said.

Hall said the tournament is unique in that all corporate sponsorship money goes directly to Father Joe's Human Development Foundation. "The players pay all the tournament's expenses including rink rental and transportation and housing for referees," he said.

In addition, several of the international teams which have participated annually in the Thailand Charity Ice Hockey tournament conduct fund raisers at home for Father Joe's foundation. "The Tokyo team, this year's international champions have always conducted a special fund-raiser for Father Joe's foundation before coming to Thailand each year," Hall said.

At the tournament, spectators and players also contribute indirectly to the Human Development Foundation. All profits from t-shirt and beverage sales go to the foundation. "Corporate sponsors often donated some of the products which we sell," he said.

In the past several years, the Bangkok Flying Farangs have raised about Bt700,000 baht annually for Father Joe's Human Development Foundation. "Many of the foreign teams have visited the Human Development Foundation and have been impressed with the work that has been done," Hall said.

Sports tournaments, which attract large groups of free-spending recreational athletes, have become an increasingly important element of the Thai tourism industry. "Few people know that Thailand has several of the best ice hockey rinks in South East Asia," Hall said.

The hockey players, who play annually in the Thailand Charity Ice Hockey tournament all stayed for about five days in Thailand. All of them are booked in five-star Chiang Mai hotels and most of them bring their families with them. "The Thailand tournament has become a family event and many players come back every year," Hall said.The Thailand Charity Ice Hockey tournament this year will culminated on November 2, with a poolside banquet at the Amari Rincome Hotel in Chiang Mai.

Everyone had a great time in Chiang Mai. The children supported by Father Joe's Human Development Foundation will also enjoy the beneficence of these "regular" sportsmen.


For further info contact Father Joe or the HDC at:3757/15 Sukhumvit RdSoi 40, Phra KhanongBangkok, Thailand 10110Tel: (662) 392-7981, 381-1821 Fax: (662) 391-4968E-mail: thague@mozart.inet.co.thor visit Scott Murray's web page at http://www.scottmurray.com for more information.