We take a look at the five teams that will take to the ice in the Emirates hockey league including Abu Dhabi Ice Hockey Club and the Dubai Mighty Camels.
A guide to the teams in Emirates hockey league
This team of Emirati players came together in 1993 after a summer spent in the capital's ice rink avoiding the heat. The team developed into the first UAE national ice hockey team and set up the UAE Ice Hockey Association. As both a regional and national team, the ADIHC have featured prominently in regional and international competitions, winning the 2009 Challenge Cup of Asia in March. "We have many expats who play ice hockey back in their countries and have very good skills. Especially in Dubai," said Mohammed Aref, the technical director. "My vision is that it will be us against the Dubai Mighty Camels," he added. "They have many expats who are very talented ice hockey players.."
This team of expats, with mostly Canadians in their ranks, have been playing together since the mid-1990s. They play in their own league - the Dubai Mighty Camels League - with seven teams and more than 150 players. They also compete in tournaments around the world and host an annual international tournament, which they last won in 2005. "The league has been a long time coming," said Ron Murphy, the Mighty Camels' 35-year-old captain. "It is great other teams in the UAE have given it support. Hopefully it will encourage more young locals to take up the sport. "It will be a high calibre of hockey, so our better players will get to play against good players. The Abu Dhabi Ice Hockey Club will probably be the ones we have to beat, but we expect to win."
They started life as the Abu Dhabi Blades in 1998 and developed into the Abu Dhabi Scorpions in 2000. Although they have mostly expat players, a number of Emiratis turn out for them as well, and they became an official Abu Dhabi club in 2003. The Scorpions have played in tournaments across the UAE and GCC countries, and compete in their own four-team league which started last Sunday and runs to mid April. "We have a very good team, with strong players and a high level of sportsmanship," said the team chairman, Ali Kaddas. "I hope I can cheer the Scorpions in the final."
The Al Ain Vipers were set up as a junior club in 1998 by a group of expatriate parents whose children loved ice hockey. A senior team quickly followed, and the Vipers have gone from strength to strength. They have many experienced players, including a number who have competed at US college level, and they beat the Scorpions in the final of the Qatar Ice Hockey Tournament earlier this year. "It is about time there was a real league in the UAE," said the Vipers centre, Alex Hennawi. "The local players are getting much better, but you can see they are not quite up to international level. The league will help expose them to what the game is like. "It is hard to say who will win the cup until we see the teams. We have the best goalie in the Emirates [Michael Jabri-Pickett] and some other very good players. We have a good chance of winning the league."
This Emiratis team, initially formed in 1998, developed into a properly structured club in 2000. AAIHC boast several members of the UAE national team, including the 26-year-old captain, Obaid Ali al Muharami. "Not only for me, but also for my team the start of this league is a dream we never thought would come true, but all of a sudden it has happened," said the assistant manager, Waheed al Arab. "We are happy and delighted to be part of it. This could benefit us in many ways such as strengthening our team, chances to play better internationally and the chance to learn more about the game."