- Written by Scott Murray
This site started life as www.scottmurray.com (still live) and was administered by Morag O’Hanlon. But Morag is a pretty busy woman; besides caring for many horses and teaching riding, she helped her daughter Selena prepare for the Canadian Olympic Team and compete as an equestrian at the Beijing Olympics. In 2007, Ozzi Jarvinen took over the administration of the site and changed it to www.scottmurray.info. Ozzi is a Finnish computer whiz, who is based in Chiang Mai.
So that’s the history of the site; I had originally hoped to update it more and make it more blog-like. Alas, reality and day jobs constantly get in the way. Still I have been based in South-East Asia for two decades now, and I think it is one of the most fascinating and beautiful areas on planet Earth. I hope you will find the stories and people portrayed in this site interesting and maybe one day lead you to do some exploring in this part of the world.
History of the Mekong Cup
- Written by Scott Murray
Two decades ago, a group of Canadian ball hockey players playing on the roof of Bangkok’s AIA building, next to the British Club Bangkok, decided they wanted to stage a tourney in a truly tropical location, so they approached one of their hockey brethren working for a hotel group who set them up at the Amari Coral Beach in Patong, Phuket, and the Mekong Cup was born with a tournament played the Saturday and a lazy day scheduled around pool on Sunday. Originally held in June every year to coincide with the Stanley Cup finals, it was hosted on an abrasive handball court that could withstand play through the worst weather and intense playing condition conditions that Thailand’s rainy season could throw at the teams. The phrase “old time hockey” took on a new meaning in the early days of the Mekong Cup.
Richard Meiklejohn was the original driving force behind the Mekong Cup and Thai Stix team, setting the tone for a ball hockey institution that continues to this day. Nicknamed "Reg" after Reg Dunlap, the colorful character played by Paul Newman in Slapshot, he led the squad for the first 5 years. In 1995, the first Mekong Cup was called due to darkness with Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok (the Thai Stix) sharing the title. In the early years, Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, were the three main participants.
By the time the torch was passed to John Casella in 2000, the Mekong Cup had moved from the handball to the tennis courts at the Amari. And a number of other refinements were introduced (including regulation nets and referees) to the Mekong Cup over the subsequent years. But the tournament continued to maintain its distinctive unorthodox S.E. Asian flavour. John both organized the Mekong Cup and captained the Thai Stix between 2000 to 2007 before making the switch to running the tourney and reffing through to the 20th annual tournament in 2014. Yves Gaboriault has since taken over the mantle of running the Mekong Cup and continues the fine traditions of this great institution, which makes it such a very special event enjoyed by hockey lovers from all corners of the globe.
For the first 17 year of the Mekong Cup, the tournament was staged at the Amari, with the only exception being the 2005 event that was staged at Phuket’s Laguna resort, because the Amari was still making repairs to damage caused by the 26 Dec 2004 tsunami. Following the tsunami, the International Street & Ball Hockey Federation (ISBHF) was kind enough to replace the nets that had been washed into the Andaman Sea resulting in the Mekong Cup’s first ever regulation set of nets. Then in 2012, Mekong Cup was forced to move venues to the Centara Karon Resort Phuket. where it has been played for the last five years.
Over its first 22 years, the Mekong Cup has hosted teams from all around Asia and further afield. From the original three mentioned above, the tournament expanded in its first 10 years to include Vietnam, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan. Hong Kong quickly became a force to be reckoned, regularly sending two teams (the Nordiques and the Islanders). Over the years, both Bangkok and Singapore have also managed to send two teams each, at times, with Bangkok being represented by the Thai Stix and the Bullies while Singapore has been represented by the Chili Crabs and Pepper Crabs. In the last 10 years, the Mekong Cup has continued to see more new teams enter the fray, including: Cambodia, Slovakia, South Korea, and Montreal. The tournament has also seen regularly attendance from officials of the ISBHF.
The Mekong Cup is the longest running ball hockey tournament in Asia and Kelly Cailes, the Executive Director of CanCham Thailand sums it best saying “the Mekong Cup, brings together several Asian countries for a great competition and a great time." A charity auction is held annually during the Mekong’s awards banquet. Called the Vivian Slot Scholarship Fund (http://www.unizg.hr/vivianscholarship), which is named after the daughter of one of the Mekong Cups players, who tragically lost her life in Phuket during the 2004 tsunami. John Casella weighs in on what the Mekong means to him: “The Mekong Cup is what hockey in Asia is all about. Not only is it loads of fun, but it brings people together from all over the region to celebrate their love for the game, builds long-lasting friendships, and gives something positive back to the community, all at the same time. Everyone wins!”