x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Skates on for UAE ice hockey

The country's first national league are set to skate into action with organisers hoping the game will develop as a professional sport in the Emirates.

Mohammed Aref, the UAE defenceman, broke his nose but continued to play in a match against Singapore.
Mohammed Aref, the UAE defenceman, broke his nose but continued to play in a match against Singapore.

ABU DHABI // The country's first national ice hockey league will skate into action tonight, and its organisers are hoping it leads to the game developing as a professional sport in the Emirates. The Abu Dhabi Scorpions will host the Dubai Mighty Camels at Zayed Sports City in the capital in the inaugural game of the Emirates Ice Hockey League, which has been launched as part of a development programme led by the Abu Dhabi Ice Hockey Club and the UAE national side. There are also plans for a new national ice hockey rink.

"We have everything we need to help the UAE team grow and play professional hockey," said Mohammed Aref, a technical director of the league and national team defenceman. "Not in a big way, but it is still professional ice hockey." The fledgling league will initially consist of five teams, two of them made up entirely of Emiratis. League games will be held in Dubai and Al Ain as well as the capital. Season-ending play-offs will take place at the Dubai Mall rink.

Having a national league and a junior development programme are conditions set by the International Ice Hockey Federation in order for the country to compete in international tournaments. The UAE will play in a tournament in Thailand this month and host a 12-team tournament of Arab nations next month. In March, they will take part in the Asia Cup before going to a World Championship Division III tournament in Athens in April, where they will play Luxembourg, the Republic of Ireland and Greece. They follow that with a tournament in Hong Kong and the Asian Club Championship.

"Once we see how this year goes we can build from here," said Aref. "This is a busy year for us and we have very big hopes." sports@thenational.ae