Organisers say they will not be able to judge the success of the newly formed Emirates Hockey League (EHL) until the end of the month.
Scorpions stung on opening day
ABU DHABI // Organisers say they will not be able to judge the success of the newly formed Emirates Hockey League (EHL) until the end of the month. The visiting Dubai Mighty Camels beat the Abu Dhabi Scorpions 7-3 on Wednesday in the inaugural game, but, despite the high-scoring debut, the EHL are not jumping to any conclusions about the quality of the on-ice product.
"This is a trial period and we'll judge how well this league has taken off after about six matches," said the EHL chairman Ali Kaddas. "We have got the best players from around the country and we have restricted the league to five teams to maintain high quality, and then obviously keep improving all-round as it progresses. "We strongly feel the interest among the ice hockey enthusiasts will grow as the EHL gets established. The first day was indeed a soft start but we hope to see all the seats in the ice rink filled and also create a fan-following of the clubs. The ideas, plans and strategies are in place. All we need now is to nurture its growth."
Mohammed Aref, a member of the UAE Ice Hockey Association's technical committee and vice chairman of the EHL, added: "It is the first time a match was played over three periods of 15 minutes and the two teams comprising the cream of the expatriate players has set a new standard for the others to follow. "This level of play will only improve after every game and this is going to benefit the national team players preparing for the Asian Championships in March and the World Championships the following month."
Jamie Nelson scored the league's first goal after 49 seconds and added a second after 10 minutes to set the platform for the Camels' win. The captain Ron Murphy, Kylie Hyland and Alan Belanger (2) added to the Camels' score while Alex Germain, Dave Cayea and Ryan Hornblower netted for the Scorpions. "The EHL is the best thing that could have happened to develop the sport in the UAE," said Murphy, 35, who has been playing since he was five in his native Canada and the last 10 years with the Camels in Dubai.
"We have more than 150 players and this league provides a great incentive for them to play more seriously. The level of play is definitely going to improve with such competitions and somewhere down the line we hope the EHL will at least gain semi-professional status. "I think we did pretty well in the first game but it's a long league with 16 matches before the play-off. The league has players from the expatriate community and two teams that form the core of the UAE national team.
"I guess this is the right way to go and we are all looking forward for an exciting first proper league season." The EHL's five teams are the Dubai Mighty Camels, Abu Dhabi Scorpions, Abu Dhabi Ice Hockey Club (ADIHC), Al Ain Ice Hockey Club and Al Ain Vipers. ADIHC and Al Ain Vipers meet in the second match in Al Ain today. firstname.lastname@example.org