x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Ice hockey camps building for future

Ice hockey in the UAE is taking a big step towards building for its future this summer, with the introduction of a new junior ice hockey programme.

Ice hockey in the UAE is taking a big step towards building for its future this summer, with the introduction of a new junior ice hockey programme. The junior ice hockey summer camp, run by the newly formed Abu Dhabi Ice Hockey Club (ADIHC), was launched on Sunday and plans are in the pipeline for a new UAE club league for all levels and a youth academy, to be based in the capital, which will launch in September.

There are also plans for another ice rink to house the new junior academy and the UAE national team. Playing ice hockey during the hot summer may seem a bit unlikely, but the newly-formed Abu Dhabi Ice Hockey Club is hoping to inspire children to pull on their skates and give it a go. But, it is not only for fun. The summer camps fulfil a vital requirement of the International Ice Hockey Federation to enable the UAE national team to take part in the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship qualifiers - to have a junior development programme in place in the country.

Members of the national team will be on hand during the camps to keep an eye out for potential talent, to create the next generation of ice hockey players. With backing from the Abu Dhabi government and UAE Ice Hockey Federation, the junior camps will take place in both Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, running for one month from today. Around 100 children aged between seven and 10 years, who applied for the camps through schools in Abu Dhabi, Baniyas and Al Ain, will take part in the coaching and skills training each week.

IIHF approved coaches have been drafted in from Finland to coordinate the coaching, which will take place at the Zayed Sports City ice rink in Abu Dhabi and the Al Ain ice rink. And it seems no expense has been spared for the camps. As well as equipping the youngsters with expert coaching, each child will be kitted out with all the clothing and equipment they need to play the game. The development of the new junior programme is vital for the advancement of the sport in the UAE, says Mohammed Aref, technical director at ADIHC and a defender for the national team.

"The national team has had good success recently, winning the [2009] Challenge Cup of Asia," said Aref, "but we are only one generation of players competing for the UAE and we need a new generation of players who can train for the future. "Kids in Canada start playing ice hockey when they are five years old. The players in the UAE team started at 14 or 15 years. "We wish we had this opportunity. With the introduction of the new programme the next generation of UAE players will have fantastic coaching from an early age, so they will have the opportunity to compete successfully against teams like Canada in the future."

Youngsters with promise from the camp will be invited to join the new ADIHC Youth Academy. However, all skills levels will be welcomed at the club. "Obviously we are hoping to spot talent for the national team, but we also want people to enjoy the sport at all levels," added Aref. "Those who are not right for the national team will still be able to join the junior programme and continue playing with the club."

Coaches at the camps will also be on the lookout for potential figure skaters and curlers, with both disciplines part of ADIHC's future plans for the development of ice sports in the capital. For more information contact uaeiha@gmail.com sports@thenational.ae