Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Arab Cup victory for Emirates

That's a small trophy. You can barely see it in the picture!

Source: IIHF

Hockey in the desert? No not the Phoenix Coyotes. The other desert halfway around the world. I knew that the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) had quite a few members in place you'd never think of. I recall Thailand losing 52-1 to Kazakhstan not so long ago so it's still growing pains.

In a desert land where the summer sun scorches the earth and camel racing is the traditional native sport of choice, the last thing you’d expect to find is an ice hockey culture with over two decades of tradition. But, if you seek it out, that’s exactly what you’ll find in the United Arab Emirates; a country in which modernism and antiquity overlap daily.

The UAE has been a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation since 2001, although ice hockey has been played in the country since 1979. While the UAE national program officially has just 195 registered players (85 adult males, 100 juniors and 10 females) and is still working toward participation in the World Championship Division III, it is among the best-equipped non-traditional hockey countries to continue to advance the game.

Despite the climate, there are three well-maintained rinks in the UAE, including two that conform to IIHF standard dimensions. The rinks are located in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai. There’s a viable national ice hockey association, growing funding for the sport, and an active league (dominated by expatriate players and clubs such as the famous Dubai Mighty Camels but with a core of native UAE players). Currently, there are over 300 players, from more than 20 different countries participating in the hockey programs offered by clubs in the UAE.

Among the three rinks in the United Arab Emirates, the one that’s the most striking to foreign visitors is the one in Al Ain. Lying adjacent to Fun City – the largest and most popular theme park in this part of the world – the building cuts a majestic figure and is intentionally designed on the outside and inside to be a welcoming refuge from the searing heat.

The UAE recently drew international attention for hosting the first Arab Cup tournament at the Abu Dhabi Ice Rink in Sheikh Zayed Sports City, winning the competition in a field that also included Kuwait, Algeria and Morocco. While the tournament’s organization and outcome are the most significant steps UAE hockey has taken, the story of Arabian hockey dates back to 1979.


Youtube Link

That was awful defending. No. 96 missed his assignment! :)

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