DUBAI // Youngsters from Dubai Mighty Camels youth section, the Sandstorms, received top-class coaching from the ice hockey great, Jari Kurri, over the weekend. Helped by fellow Finns, Veli-Pekka Ketola, Heikki Riihiranta, Jyrki Lumme, Jorma Valtonen, and Arto Malinen, Kurri spent two mornings on the ice at Dubai Mall passing on tips to children aged five to 18.
"It's hard for these kids to get a lot of practice," said Kurri. "They don't have much opposition and it's [Dubai] not really a place you associate with ice hockey." Around 180 youngsters take to the ice with the Sandstorms and despite the paucity of numbers, there was no denying the passion for ice hockey in the Emirate. "They have a great attitude," said Kurri, manager of Team Finland and the second-highest point-scorer for the Edmonton Oilers behind Wayne Gretzky. "As soon as you blow the whistle they are ready to learn."
Kurri and a host of other retired ice hockey greats including Montreal Canadiens stalwart, Yvan Cournoyer and former Spartak Moscow star, Alexandr Yakushev, were in town for the Canada Week in Dubai Celebrations. The camp organiser, Darren Scott, said parents made sure their children understood just who they were receiving coaching points from. "Some of the kids may be too young to get exactly who these guys are, but this is coaching you can't buy," he said.
"They may not have much time with the coaches here, but they can take what they learned into future sessions and it gives them the chance to meet these great players and see what can be achieved." Raising money for the UAE Terry Fox Run and the Montreal Canadiens Children's Foundation, the rink time was sponsored by Dubai Mall with other donations from Diplomat Freight Services. Yesterday's game, which had the international all-stars mixed in with local players, saw the White team beat the Black team 9-5 with Jason Clark scoring two goals for the victors. The Russian veteran Alexander Yakushev gave the Whites a 2-1 lead which was extended to 5-1. Kurri helped Blacks pull back to 5-3 but that was as close as they could get.