Johnny Oduya of the Chicago Black Hawks (photo below), currently locked out over a revenue sharing dispute between the National Hockey League owners and players, took advantage of his spare time to lead Bangkok’s Flying Farangs to do something they’ve never done before, win their own tournament.
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The four-division, 36-team, 18th annual Land of Smiles tourney was labelled an instant classic with the Farangs defeating the Abu Dhabi Storm 2-1 in a very close final game to win the international open division. Bangkok captain Geoff McIntyre provided most of the final-game dramatics, assisting on Rob Taylor’s tying goal, after Abu Dhabi jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, and then scoring the winning goal himself. McIntyre didn’t make it easy for his team though taking a minor penalty with just over two minutes to go; the pro-Bangkok crowd was on pins and needles as the clocked ticked down to the Flying Farangs’ first home championship. Netminder Dean Tzembelikos, who flew in from Hong Kong for the tourney, provided crucial saves for the Farangs at key times to earn the win. And veteran Robert Voisine, also played an important tormenting opposing netminders so Farang forwards could better put in the blasts coming from their stellar defensemen on the points.
Thai National star Tewin “Thor” Chartsuwan skated on the Farangs top line with Swiss speedster Jurg Dolder and Swedish ace Henrik Olofsson (facing off below). Likit Neimwan-Andersson, the only Thai to ever play professional ice hockey, teamed up with Oduya on defense. Likit had played with Oduya’s brother Freddy (now deceased) years earlier in Sweden, and was one of the few players on the team who could handle Oduya’s rocket-hard passes.

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The “Pitstop” team from Latvia defeated the Singapore Manimals to win the International Men’s Tier Two division (the Flying Farangs’ second squad came within a goal of reaching their final as well, losing in a semi-final shoot-out to the Latvian team).  The Hong Kong Hitmen trumped the Abu Dhabi Theebs to win the Asian Division and the Abu Dhabit Storm beat the Bangkok C Gal’s to take home the women’s division honours.    

Also competing in the tournament for the Finnish team Jellonas was Vesa Toskala, the former number one goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Now retired, Toskala also played for San Jose, Anaheim and Calgary in his NHL career. Toskala holds the San Jose record for most points by a goalie in a game (2), he was also traded to Anaheim with Jason Blake for former Conn Smythe trophy winner (MVP in the playoffs), Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Oduya was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers (who became the Winnipeg Jets) from the New Jersey Devils on 4 February 2010 along with Niclas Bergfors, Patrice Cormier and a 1st round draft pick for Anssi Salmela and Ilya Kovalchuk. On 10 March 2010; Kovalchuk went on to sign the most expensive contract in NHL history - US$102 million spread over 17 years. Oduya was later dealt to Chicago on February 27 of this year for a 2nd and 3rd round pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He is scheduled to make US$4 million this year (if the NHL resumes play), and he plays on defense with former James Norris trophy winner (best defenseman in the NHL) Duncan Keith and his co-Olympic gold-medal winning teammate Brent Seabrooke.     

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The Land of Smiles tourney took place over five days at “The Rink”, Grand Central Rama IX Mall and the Imperial Samrong Ice Arena. The Zamboni at Samrong broke down early in the tournament and panic set in quickly, because when the machine broke it left a large and deep rut in the ice, so dangerous that the Canadian Hackers team threaten to leave for safety concerns. Quick thinking by Flying Farang Mike Swager saved the day, as after packing the whole with some loose ice, he grabbed a fire extinguisher and hosed the rut shut earning the nickname “The Extinguisher” (photos by Naz Brown).

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