We believe in the power of sport to build bridges between even the most distanced cultures, and that through such engagement anything is possible. Further. we believe that sport isn’t inherently political in nature, and that geopolitics should never prevent communities from interacting with each other. It was these two beliefs that led us to start the Pyongyang Ice Hockey League which is aimed at creating cross cultural engagement between ordinary people in the DPRK and the international community.

And we’ve proven our assumptions to be accurate. Last year myself and my colleague Gordon Israel travelled to Pyongyang, DPR (North) Korea with a group of international hockey players. It marked the end of lengthy discussions and preparations, during which we negotiated the inclusion of a sports program for individuals with an intellectual disability (ID). We had been told by all external advisors that this would never happen as the DPRK would never let foreigners work with the population in question. In the end, our offer to play hockey was the spark that facilitated our groundbreaking and ongoing efforts to bring disability (ID) sports to the DPRK.

The success of the Pyongyang International Hockey League has led us to start the Howe International Friendship league – a series of events around the world with similar objectives to the PIHL.

You can check out our website here: www.friendshipleague.org https://www.facebook.com/HoweInternationalConsulting https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRfdZx2xXoZhw7POfwEDAMQ https://www.instagram.com/hifriendshipleague

My Proof: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxDQRbPZO93IeDVybDJSX1MxaTQ/view?usp=sharing and https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxDQRbPZO93IUHlwcUdHX0VsZE0/view

Comments: 1226 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

RoosterSamurai716 karma

Do North Koreans actually have a competitive hockey team? Or will they just get blown out and embarrassed?

GordonHI835 karma

In fact we were quite surprised to see that the North Korean team played a skilled and structured game when we brought a full team of expats in March 2016. Our players had to fight hard to keep up!

zidanetribal1520 karma

You are now a moderator of /r/Pyongyang

GordonHI581 karma

Hey thanks for that. There's much to discuss on that topic, I'll be sure to contribute! Do you have any experience with the country?

RoosterSamurai31 karma

Do you think they have any players of nhl quality?

GordonHI114 karma

Not at this point. I think it will take a few years for the sport to expand in the region, including in China, to allow for the top level training and competition in amateur levels that produce the top tier players......but its not for a lack of passion. They do very well given their resources

Leftyleftyy15 karma

Wait. I'm not understanding. Are you bringing hockey players to the NPRK?

GordonHI29 karma

Do you play? We'd love to have you join us next year!

SimplyAbraham27 karma

I will play! From Nova Scotia, Canada played my whole life. Inbox me!

HoweInternational21 karma

Great to hear your enthusiasm! We recommend you check out our website www.friendshipleague.org. As we are a small organization players need to cover the cost of their travel, which includes a donation to support our sports programs for individuals with ID in the DPRK.

Malitiae14 karma

Are you looking for professionals? I played hockey for about ten years when I was younger, and I'd be interested.

HoweInternational19 karma

We're looking for players of all skill levels who believe in the project. Last years team including some very strong (former NCAA div 1) and some casual beer league players. We do try and provide some expert coaches/players to help the DPRK players train, but the event is more about cross cultural engagement than it is about winning

ProfessionalWil10 karma

If I've never played before, does that count as a skill level?

GordonHI11 karma

Haha well we also welcome spectators and while you might not be selected to play during the games we have several training sessions taking place in their famous ice rink in the heart of Pyongyang. In addition all participants are taken to visit the capital and the Demilitarized Zone as well as to discover NK culture and people ; it's worth having a look believe me

GordonHI13 karma

Haha no it's not. Look at testimonials from last March 2016 event we organized here http://friendshipleague.org/, we all came back safe at home, with plenty of unique memories ;)

SenorPantsbulge343 karma

What kind of interaction did you get to have with the Korean players?

What is hockey infrastructure like in North Korea? Decent equipment, venues? Are there fans?

How would North Korean players do in a North American League, do you think?

HoweInternational327 karma

On this ice we had quite a bit of interaction, especially during the practices and before and after games when there was a lot of downtime. During our friendship games we mixed the teams so that foreign players could actually play on the same lines as DPRK players. Next year we're hoping to organize some joint dinners and things like that to increase the interaction even further.

According to most of the foreign players (who were mainly expats based elsewhere in Asia) the ice was the best in Asia. There are two indoor and multiple outdoor rinks in the country. The issue is with equipment, sanctions make it very difficult for players to get the equipment they need. Many of our players were trading their equipment for autographed jerseys etc after the tournament.

They do get fans out to their national league games, for our events we had several hundred locals come and check it out. But like anywhere, awareness of events will grow with each year we do it so we're hoping to see big crowds in the future.

If they were in a Canadian league I would say they would fit in well at the Jr. B level.

tanghan121 karma

Don't you have the suspicion that the several hundred fans were made to come, watch and cheer?

GordonHI142 karma

Yeah if you have a look to the pictures on our instagram for instance (https://www.instagram.com/hifriendshipleague/) you'll see that it wasn't that crowded. We had a decent amount of people including players relatives and friends and hockey fans. The women team was here too and they were in fact quite disappointed we did not bring a team of female players!

emzeeree34 karma

Do you plan on having female players in the future?

GordonHI68 karma

We have tried very hard to include female players and have spoken to the DPRK women's team who are supportive. We just simply haven't had many female hockey players sign up. We think thats a shame as the women's team should get the same opportunities as their male colleagues. Do you know any female players that might want to make the first ever women's team trip?

illradhab19 karma

Local Canadian teams - maybe in Toronto, or maybe better luck with smaller places in Quebec or (maybe not Quebec) Nova Scotia. Tons of womens teams

GordonHI17 karma

We've emailed and called some but with no luck, we will keep trying for sure. If you come across any female hockey enthusiasts please let them know about our adventure.

Dawnweinerdawg5 karma

I would make the trip!

GordonHI4 karma

It would be great to have you. We do ask participants to cover their tour fees (we've worked hard to make them as low as possible) which also include a donation to support our programs for athletes with intellectual disabilities in the DPRK.

Send us an email to [email protected] if you're interested! We hope to hear from you!

breezieweezie151 karma

Are women able to play?

GordonHI201 karma

Yeah in fact during our last event when we played with the men's team we saw the women starting a warm up session and then training hard. We later noticed they were also very excited about the idea to welcome a foreign team and exchange with them so for this second edition we try to mobilize more women! We even have a dedicated poster https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BxDQRbPZO93IUXVpQWdoQW13eXM

1standarduser64 karma

Are you allowed to date a woman in N. Korea (as a foreigner)?

GordonHI149 karma

Yes, theres no major restriction forbidding it. However DPRK society is very conservative so hookups with hockey players aren't appropriate or too likely. Most foreigners who date local citizens are expats who spend a great deal of time in the country allowing more time for relationships to develop

Afghan_dan12 karma

Their women's football team is ranked as 9th in the world

GordonHI9 karma

Yeah, I had never heard about this. We do want women to be involved too. In March 2016, when we brought our first (male) team we could see the national women team training and understood they would have loved to meet an international women team too. So this year we try to push for women registration in order to satisfy both the men and women ice hockey team of North Korea! Do you have more info about their football team?

allisslothed79 karma

Are athletes punished for not performing well on the global stage?

GordonHI84 karma

Haha no, of course not. That comes back often in the discussions but in fact those guys are young athletes like us and are happy to represent their country abroad and in the Pyongyang Ice Rink — quite a beautiful place btw. Their performance is obviously important for local officials but no one takes it that seriously neither, even Koreans ;) Do you know what their ice rink look like?

HoweInternational31 karma

Hi Reddit, we're Scott Howe and Gordon Israel from the Howe International Friendship League. What's on your mind?

4skinlive35 karma

I'm so confused, are you guys North Korean, or from somewhere else and helped start this league in conjunction with North Korea?

GordonHI21 karma

No we are the two managing partners of the Howe International Friendship League (HIFL) as Vancouver based organization. My partner is Scott Howe from Canada and I'm Gordon Israel, from France ;) We managed to initiate discussion with relevant North Korean officials and they have been responding very positively to our initiative from March 2015. Those discussions ended up in the organization of the Pyongyang International Friendship Ice Hockey Exhibition in March 2016 when we brought a full team of expats in Pyongyang for training sessions and friendship games with the DRPK team. Now we want to build upon our previous success and make our project grow to take down the barriers existing between North Koreans and international citizens!

jsimmons15315 karma

I was so confused. I thought you guys were involved with Gordie Howe in some way. Like some sort of international organization he had. This makes a lot more sense. Also a really awesome thing you guys are doing.

GordonHI5 karma

No nothing to do with Gordie Howe. Glad to hear you appreciate what we are doing. Hopefully this kind of initiatives will start popping up in the country and allow more people to exchange with North Koreans. Most of the people we met there were very existed to discuss with us about various topics and very eager to learn more about what's happening overseas

twinsaurus30 karma

Hi! My friend and former coworker in Seoul was one of the international players who was selected to go to Pyeongyang to play as a part of this hockey league. He seemed to have enjoyed it. However, he mentioned that while Canadian players were allowed into NK, US players were not even selected to go. If sports transcend politics, why was the friendship league not open to all?

HoweInternational21 karma

I'm not sure what your friend is referring to although its good to her he enjoyed it. We had several Americans on the trip last time, the only restriction is that they must fly into the country rather than take the train. As a league we don't place any restrictions, however we are unable to change entry requirements in any country in which we operate.....rules are rules

twinsaurus13 karma

Got it! I'm sure he was talking about the absence of US nationals on the very long train ride and I took it to mean that there were no Americans at all.

GordonHI10 karma

Yeah our American participants were not treated any differently from our other Canadian or Swiss guys. The "anti-imperialism" atmosphere is obviously quite alive but doesn't apply to citizens, rather to governments and politics

dissenter_the_dragon6 karma

is y'all boys fixing to hang out after the game? grab a beer or a pizza or something? what y'all fin to talk about? y'all boys watch Luke Cage yet?

GordonHI11 karma

Yup we'll celebrate over a beer in a local bar of Pyongyang! Hopefully the whole DPRK team will be able to join including the coaches and juniors. Are you a hockey fan?

ChocolateNachos5 karma

How do you get into North Korea that often?

GordonHI11 karma

We work with a department of the government responsible for facilitating international charitable and engagement projects. They make the process of applying for visas etc very easy. When on official charitable visits we are able to obtain official visit visas which give us more freedom than the standard tourist visas.

Citizens of most countries are able to obtain permits to visit as a tourist simply by visiting a tour provider such as Lupine Tours of the UK who take care of everything from there.