Chinese hockey oldtimers face off on frozen pond

Old ice hockey enthusiasts in northeast China are tending to their own outdoor rink.

There are no operating indoor rinks in the rust-belt city of Anshan so these amateur players have taken matters into their own hands - and to a nearby frozen pond.

They scrape the pond's surface each day before flooding it with water from a generator pump.

The weather, at minus 20 degrees Celsius, does the rest.

Chu Cequan is a former player turned referee:

"This (rink) is built by ice hockey lovers who put in effort and pool money. Some contributed lumber, some contributed boards. In short, we love this game. Everyone is an amateur. It was all built by the group with pooled funds."

Once assembled, the players lace up their skates and take turns shooting pucks around the ice.

Many have been friends for more than three decades.

They come from all walks of life - from civil servants to blue collar workers and retirees.

All are united in their love of the sport.

But that passion stands in sharp contrast to wider indifference to ice hockey in China.

Aggravating that lack of interest is the unremarkable men's hockey team due to compete for China in the Beijing Games.

China has no professional league and the Chinese team is ranked 32 globally.

It was only allowed to compete at the Games after lengthy deliberation over its relative proficiency.

"I wish we could get ice sports going. One (obstacle) is that there's too little of an atmosphere for playing this game domestically. We don't have an audience like North America's National Hockey League. Its audience actively participates and watches the game, and it is more intense."

For the Anshan players, though, hockey has never been about smashing Olympic records or playing in an elite league.

Creating, and competing on their makeshift rink, is just a labor of love.

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