x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Interest among Dubai women in UAE heats up rinkside

A new ice hockey team to play the national side while the increasing numbers mean coach Murphy has a big pool of talent at disposal, most of them Emiratis.

Members of the new Dubai women's team have shown impressive commitment to the game in their first year of inception.
Members of the new Dubai women's team have shown impressive commitment to the game in their first year of inception.

Transformation takes place at breakneck speed in the UAE, and the domestic ice hockey scene is no exception.

It is difficult to think of a sport in the country that is evolving at a greater pace.

The Emirates Hockey League is in its third season; the country has three Olympic-sized rinks, including one at Zayed Sports City which has been renovated to meet the International Ice Hockey Federation standards; a 16-game Under 20 league will be launched this year; and the national women's ice hockey team was formed last year. There are also plans to start Under 18 and Under 12 women's teams.

The passion for the women's game will be illustrated in Abu Dhabi on National Day weekend in December when the UAE women's team face off against the new Dubai women's team.

"The girls are looking forward to playing," said Seanna Murphy, the UAE's Canadian coach who led the team in their debut event in the Hong Kong Fives tournament last year.

"We have not played a game since the Hong Kong tournament but the girls learned a lot about the dedication and hard work required to play hockey.

"They saw how the other teams played, how much effort and hard work were required to win games".

Murphy has seen interest snowball, and now has 29 players, mostly Emiratis and including two goalies, to choose from.

"Hopefully, we will be able to schedule more games before we leave for Hong Kong [next year] and possibly host a women's tournament in the next couple years," Murphy said.

Their opponents next month also have a strong Canadian influence.

"Our group does include many Canadians, as you would imagine," said Kim Brasko, a seasoned hockey player and founding member of the Dubai team.

"But it also includes girls from Holland, the UK, the Philippines, Russia and Australia. There are some experienced players, but the majority are really new to hockey and skating itself."

Roohi Hamlani grew up in Dubai and started playing women's hockey a few years ago when she moved to Canada. She was the driving force behind setting up a team in Dubai.

"I wanted to replicate the experience I had playing a great sport that requires multiple skills, a high level of fitness and tight teamwork here in Dubai, and was lucky enough to find an amazing group of women who play to have fun, get a great workout and get better at the game," Hamlani said.

"Although we have only been playing together for one season, the improvement has been remarkable, due to some brilliant coaching from within and some members of the men's league, and an impressive commitment from the players.

"The scrimmages we have at the end of each practice are exciting and competitive, but we are really looking forward to meeting and playing the Abu Dhabi national women's team for exposure to a new team and, hopefully, the first of many more friendlies against them."


Coming up:

Game of the week

Al Ain Vipers v Dubai Mighty Camels: Both teams call the Dubai Mall their home arena. The Vipers are led by veteran goalie Michael Jabri-Pickett while the Camels will be starting young Matt Jones in the goal. Jones, 17, was voted as the best goalkeeper in the Emirates Hockey League last year, an honour Jabri-Pickett won the previous year. The contest should provide the fans an interesting match-up between the pipes.