Bangkok = hockey. Sure. And next we’ll be dog sledding and building igloos on Sukhumvit, right? For a number of hardy ex-pats the above equation is a reality. Every Wednesday night, the Flying Farangs discard their PCs and leave the worries of the business world behind them as they grab their sticks and skates, head to the Imperial World Samrong and lace up their blades to compete with some of Thailand’s best players.

Most foreigners can’t believe it when they first hear that they can play hockey in Thailand. Very few have equipment. It’s usually not on their must-bring list when they are packing to come to Asia. As a result, these ex-pats are sent scrambling for protective gear once they learn that they can play the world’s fastest game in Bangkok. Luckily, one of the Thai players, Sakchai “Jeab” Chinanuvatana, manages a pro shop in the rink, and is able to supply many of the players with their equipment needs.

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Canadian Craig O’Brien founded the Farangs. A mechanical engineer by trade, he has since returned to Canada, but when he first hit Don Muang’s tarmac, instead of heading to the usual tourist haunts, he set off in search of an ice rink. He lived for the game, and his zeal rubbed off on his teammates, many of whom were never to have taken the game so seriously in their lives. From petroleum engineers to investment consultants, teachers, journalists, deep-sea divers, stamp collectors and hotel executives … the professions of the players run the gamut. But, for a few hours every week, they can pretend to be Sydney Crosby all over again, and have fun doing it.

The players themselves are a diverse mix, coming from places as far afield as Helsinki, New York City, Toronto and Tokyo. But the bulk of the foreigners come from — yeah, you guessed it, eh? — Canada. You remember the old adage, “You can take a Canadian out of a hockey rink, but you can never take the hockey out of a Canadian.” Well, it’s true.

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The Farangs and Jogsports annually host an international hockey tournament in late October or early November. Teams have come from as far away as Russia, Canada and the Czech Republic, but the regulars are Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo. Thailand is represented by the Flying Farangs and Thai teams such as Canstar. There’s an auction every tournament and all funds raised go to help Father Joe Maier and his Human Development Center in Klong Toey.

Although the game, with its many rules and infractions, can be difficult to understand, the support base for the sport is growing here in Bangkok. Unfortunately, since hockey equipment is expensive, only the children of rich or middle-class Thai families can afford to play. With the increasing popularity of the sport, however, it’s hoped that more and more Thai kids will become interested in the game, and more ways will be found to subsidize equipment purchases.

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The Farangs have faced quite an odyssey since 1995, when they first laced up their blades at the Mall IV rink, across from Ramkamhaeng University. That rink was shut down in 1997 and turned into a cineplex. Then the team moved out to the Imperial Samrong, where the Farangs stayed until 2001, when that rink also closed. The team then shifted base again and ended up at the much smaller Imperial Lat Phrao (now the Big C Lat Phrao), a rink about half the size of a normal facility. During that period, the Farangs staged their international tournaments at the full-size Kad Suan Kaew complex in Chiang Mai.

In March of 2004, the Farangs were given permission to skate at the Central World Plaza, a rink they have coveted for a decade. But that only lasted 9 months, when the World Trade Center renovated and became Central World Plaza, but without a skating rink. The Farangs went back to Imperial Lat Phrao for a few months before starting their second stint at the Imperial Samrong, and this was thanks to Thai figure skater Mimi Chindasook and her Olympic dream. Her family renovated Imperial Samrong and allowed hockey players to use the rink when it wasn’t being used by Mimi and her fellow skaters.

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The Farangs competed in the Bangkok Hockey League, which ran for two years (1999-2000) and featured teams like the Polar Bears, a squad filled with ferocious Thai females. The league came to a halt when Samrong was shut down, but Flying Farang Scott Whitcomb re-started the league in the fall of 2004 renaming it the Thai-World Hockey League (TWHL) and integrating the Thais and the Farangs. Previously, the Farangs had all been one team and the Thais on a variety of other squads. The final games between the Farangs and the best Thais teams had been epic bloody battles, with some of the disagreements even emptying out into the parking lot.

The player with the highest profile ever to play against the Farangs was probably Neal Broten, who brought a team over from the USA to compete in the Chiang Mai tourney. After being part of the famous gold-medal “Miracle on Ice” squad in Lake Placid back in 1980, Broten suited up for one game short of 1,100 in the NHL, playing 17 NHL seasons. He popped in 289 goals and had 634 assists for 923 points. He won a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils, captained the Minnesota North Stars, and his sweater is the only one the Dallas Stars have ever retired. On top of all that, he’s a nice guy; he even carries his own equipment bag.
Troy Crowder, one of the NHL’s premier pugilists in his day also brought a team from North Bay, Ontario, to compete in the Farangs’ annual tourney at Samrong. Surprisingly, Crowder dazzled everyone with his passing and stickhandling skills, not his fisticuffs.

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The Farangs have also laid claim to having had the most beautiful Zamboni driver. A couple of years ago in Chiang Mai, Khun Tu, the rink manager there, also drove the arena’s resurfacing machine. But when she drove the Zamboni, she dressed to the nines, with evening gowns, high heels and even an occasional tiara. Some people — Neal Broten loved her — came to the games just to see her resurface the ice. There was one occasion when 6’6” Farang Bjorn Turmann high-fived her as she took the turn on the corner boards. This immediately caught on, and lovely Khun Tu drove the length of the boards high-fiving Farangs, spectators and opposition players — quite a moment in sporting history.

So it seems that the cry: “He shoots! He scores!” will not be restricted to the rinks of Europe and North America anymore, and the Farangs will continue to play a major part in spreading the gospel of ice hockey across Southeast Asia. Who knows, maybe in 20 years teams from Hanoi, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Manila and Rangoon will be playing in a Southeast Asian Hockey League
(If you have any enquiries about the Flying Farangs, contact Scott Murray at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.flyingfarangs.com for more info on the team. Visit www.jogsports.com for more info on the TWHL).


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Scott Murray's sweater on display in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Canada.

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