The 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Challenge Cup of Asia will return in 2016 with a record 12 teams split between the two men’s divisions this coming year.

The Challenge Cup of Asia has run every year since 2008, featuring some countries that have eventually moved on to the World Championships. There have been a few different versions of it over the years, including men’s, women’s, U20, U18 and university levels. Chinese Taipei has been the best team to ever compete in the tournament, winning it five out of the seven total times since the tournament’s inception.

The Top Division will be hosted in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The top Asian event has been hosted in the city twice already before, first in 2009 and most recently in 2014. Chinese Taipei, Mongolia, Thailand and the recently promoted nations of Kuwait and Singapore (for the first time since the two tournament structure came into place) will help fill out the six team division for 2016. The tournament is set for March 11th-17th.

A month later, the second best group of teams will battle it out in the Division I tournament, taking place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan from April 9th-14th. Macau, Oman, Malaysia, India and Qatar will join the hosts in the quest for promotion into the top group for 2017. For Qatar, who had to pull out last year due to funding issues, it will be their first crack at the tournament, and just their second tournament to date. Established in 2012, Qatar only competed in a few exhibition games prior to the Gulf Cup tournament back in 2014, but their lone international win was good enough to give them the bronze medal at the low level event.

The importance of the CCoA is definetly evident this year. For most teams, this is the last real chance to get prepared for the Asian Winter Games, a Japanese-hosted event set for February of 2017. The United Arab Emirates will have an extra chance to prove themselves before the 2017 tournament, participating in the Division III World Championships later in the year.

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