As his Abu Dhabi Storms begin their season against the Abu Dhabi Scorpions on Wednesday, the Belarussian coach declares the EHL to be one of Asia's best.
Yuri Faikov: Emirates Hockey League is one of Asia's best
ABU DHABI // The Abu Dhabi Storms have made an important signing ahead of the new Emirates Hockey League (EHL) season, bringing in Yuri Faikov, the former national team coach.
The Storms meet the Abu Dhabi Scorpions in their EHL opener tonight at the Abu Dhabi Ice Rink at Zayed Sports City, and Faikov's task will be to mould a team capable of winning the title.
The 42 year old, who has agreed to a two-year contract, was the national team coach from March 2001 to December 2008.
After more than seven years at the helm, he returned to his native Belarus, first as a player with the champions Kremlin Minsk before becoming the head coach of Shinnir Bobruisk.
"It was not difficult choice for me to return to Abu Dhabi when I was offered the job," Faikov said. "I have worked with them before and I'm obviously looking forward to a new challenge with the team.
"I have been following the UAE national team at the international competitions.
"They are one of the best developing teams in the Asian circuit, and I am also aware of the new developments and the backing the sport has received from the administration."
Faikov will see the Storms, a team made up of mostly of Emirati players, in action for the first time in a competitive game tonight. They then play the Al Ain Vipers on October 12 before taking part in the international division of the Ice Hockey Classic in Bangkok from October 25 to 29.
Al Ain Theebs, another predominantly Emirati side who open their league campaign against the Dubai Mighty Camels at the Al Ain Rink on Friday, will also travel to Thailand for the event's second-tier club competition.
"We have been preparing ahead of the league and the first two games will also serve as a preparation for the competition in Bangkok," Faikov said.
"There are quite a few players whom I know and quite a few young faces. It is a pretty good balance. The concept of the EHL is an excellent one to raise the level of play and for the development of the sport."