On any given Saturday, the ice rink at Al Nasr Leisureland is buzzing with kids, trussed up in helmets and shin guards, whizzing around the ice, chasing a speedy puck. It’s a cool sport, which somehow manages to coax little players away from Dubai’s popular pools and beaches.
Ron Murphy, one of the coaches with Dubai Sandstorms, the city’s leading ice hockey club, believes that some of these kids are simply born with ice running through their veins. “We first got together over 15 years ago with a simple vision – to form a club to pass on our love of hockey to our children,” he tells us. “We now have more than 180 children playing and more than 20 different nationalities involved. Canadian players make up the majority, but we have a lot of European, Arabic and American kids who also play. We have kids who will have parents from two different countries who have taken up the game and we find families love the sport.”
Celebrated as one of the “fastest games on two feet”, ice hockey is not a mainstream sport here in Dubai, but it has a fun factor that is very unique and draws children to it. It’s a team sport and the kids learn to rely on each other, and the volunteer nature of the club gives it a real family feel while boasting some very talented, multi-national coaching staff who have played a lot of hockey in their time.
The club is competitive too, and its teams travel to play in many far-flung places, including Singapore, Thailand, Latvia, France, Czech Republic, Holland and regionally in the Gulf. Very proud of its own home tournaments, the club also hosts two big ones every year themselves – one in Abu Dhabi and one in Al Ain.
The season runs from mid-September to April and young players can learn how to pass, shoot and skate, as well as pick up techniques for drills and strategies. For would-be ice hockey stars, Murphy’s advice is to work hard and cohesively. “Kids who work the hardest get the most out of his or her game,” he says. “Someone who is truly a team player will go further than a player who has a selfish mindset.” Get ready to lace up your skates this winter, Dubai!
Dhs3,800 annual fee (covers ice time fees, team jerseys and socks). Timings vary. Al Nasr Leisureland (home rink), Oud Metha, www.dubaisandstorms.com.