x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dubai schoolboys excited to play in ice hockey competition in Sweden

The Dubai Bantam Sandstorms under 15 side, who won the age-level tournament in the UAE, will take part in the Lansforsakringar Cup.

The Dubai Bantam Sandstorms won the Under 15 ice hockey tournament in Al Ain during the weekend.
The Dubai Bantam Sandstorms won the Under 15 ice hockey tournament in Al Ain during the weekend.

A team of young ice hockey players are set to make their overseas debut next month in an international competition in Scandinavia.

The Dubai Bantam Sandstorms Under 15s will be playing in the Lansforsakringar Cup in Enkoping, Sweden, and expect it to be a bone-shuddering experience.

It will be the first time they have played full body contact in competitive games.

The idea of an overseas tour was hatched when one of the parents suggested the Sandstorms play in a tournament in his home country, said Kelly Jones, who coaches the youngsters.

"He had a contact there so he arranged the whole thing," Jones said. "The kids are excited to play some challenging hockey and the parents are happy to get to see Sweden.

"The youngsters are thrilled to have some major competition and will play their first contact game. In the UAE hockey leagues we do not allow any contact between players so it is very exciting for these young boys to get to 'throw their weight around'."

The Sandstorm youngsters have been playing ice hockey together in Dubai for about eight years. Most of the players first put on their skates when they were four years old.

They practise for just one hour a week at Al Nasr LeisureLand and play a game every weekend at Dubai Mall, and at the weekend won gold medals in the A and B divisions at an Under 15 tournament in Al Ain.

"The team going to Sweden tries to fit in an extra practice [session] whenever we can get ice time," Jones said.

"We are very limited in Dubai by ice availability. We cannot grow our league or have more practices to keep up to our competition because we do not have a dedicated arena. It is the hope of all Sandstorm kids and parents to one day have our own hockey arena."

Jones, who grew up in Toronto and played Metro Toronto Hockey League and later for Ontario's Wilfrid Laurier University, is in his ninth year coaching in the Dubai Sandstorms organisation. He has also played for the Dubai Mighty Camels.

All of the Sandstorm coaches have full-time jobs and give up their weekends and one night a week to coach the students on a volunteer basis. Jones, who is helped by Russ Humby, Steve Braden, Erik Hansen and Jim Reside, said: "It was very rewarding."

"All young Hockey players dream of being in the NHL [National Hockey League] and work hard at every practice and game to one day be good enough to play with their NHL heroes.

"We're really looking forward to this European Tour in Sweden. For most of the kids it's the first time they can compare their skill level to other hockey nations.

"I know that they are looking forward to a full body contact tournament."

In the Al Ain tournament, the Sandstorms went undefeated and had a 7-1 victory over the Qatar Raiders 7-1.

The B team also won gold in the B Division. Despite going undefeated, competition was tight and the winner was not decided until they beat the Qatar Raiders 4-2 in the final game.

Isaiah Jones was awarded team MVP while overall tournament awards were won by James Braden for best forward and Kevin Reside for best goalie.

The team MVP honours in the B division went to the forward Gabe Palubiski and division best goalie award to Chris Mercier.

Darryn DeBruyn, the head coach, credited the entire team for their effort, saying: "We rolled three forward lines the whole day and our defence and goaltending were solid. Every player on our roster contributed to this win."

While the competition to Sweden, on March 31 and April 1, is a first for the Under 15s the Dubai Sandstorms senior team, have previously played in Quebec in Canada, Lafia in Finland and Ascona in Switzerland.

apassela@thenational.ae


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