Hockey league is giving Emirati nationals invaluable experience

The UAE national hockey team players have used playing time in the Emirates Hockey League to help prepare for the Challenge Cup of Asia in March.

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Abu Dhabi // The UAE national team players will use the Emirates Hockey League (EHL) play-offs as a vital part of preparations for the upcoming Challenge Cup of Asia in India.

Mohammed Al Jachi, the UAE and Storms defender, said the EHL has contributed significantly to the development of Emirati players since its inauguration in 2009/10 on the recommendation of the International Ice Hockey Federation.

"Since we began the EHL, the Emirati players have got the opportunity to play in a strong league comprising expatriate players with a lot of experience from the established hockey nations like Canada and the USA, and Europe," he said.

Emirati players have had 16 games in the EHL since October, and the Storms and Al Ain Theebs, who between them boast most of the national players, now enter the play-offs, facing each other in a best-of-three semi-final series.

"The play-off matches will keep the players busy and would provide them vital practice until the final," said Yuri Faikov, the Belarusian who coaches the Storms as well as the national team.

"We had three training session for the national team and now we would just concentrate on the remaining EHL games. It will still serve as part of their preparation and we may use the window at the end for a few practice matches before we depart to India on March 14.

"There is very little time between the EHL and a team get-together, but playing competitive games is as good as practice games."