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News for 30 April 2015

All the news for Thursday 30 April 2015

Will sleeping giants awake in Valencia

Germany seek to rediscover winning ways and China hope to turn defence into attack.

Continuing our look at key encounters in the forthcoming Hockey World League Semi Finals, we focus on two teams whose report card over recent years would probably read “could do better”. Both giants on their own continents, Germany and China have failed to impress at the major tournaments over the past few years, but both teams will be eyeing Valencia as the platform for their revival.

Germany's women's team has been one of the most consistent hockey nations in the world. Winners of Olympic Gold in 2004, winners of the World Cup in 1976 and 1981, and gold medallists in Europe in 2007 and 2013, Die Danas has a long and proud history in major championships. Despite being a regular fixture in the top 10 nations in the world – currently ranked sixth – Germany has not been the usual force to be reckoned with in recent years and now joins New Zealand, Great Britain/England and China as a team that perennially sits around the fourth-eighth ranking positions.

China is a team that also has a solidly consistent presence in the top 10 middle ranking, but unlike their European rivals, the Chinese – currently ranked seventh – has never translated that enduring presence into major medals. An Olympic silver in Beijing in 2008 and bronze in the 2002 World Cup, are the extent of the team's success in the most prestigious tournaments. However, consistently high performances on their own continent, including three gold medals in the Asian Games, means the Chinese team enjoy a presence at all major tournaments.

The two teams last met at the most recent World Cup, and to the surprise of many observers, it was China who emerged the more successful team. Victories over the then third-ranked England side and another win over South Africa, plus a 1-1 draw with Germany meant that China were left playing for fifth place, while Germany – who had a disappointing tournament by their own high standards – were left playing for seventh place, a match they lost to Korea.

More recently China participated in the Hawkes Bay Eight Nations in New Zealand, where they finished in bronze position. Yang Peng, one of the experienced Chinese players, said that her team had been working on their defence, and this was demonstrated as they held Australia to a 2-2 draw in the pool matches and only succumbed to a late penalty corner in the semi-finals, also against the Hockeyroos. In the bronze medal match, China beat Asian neighbours Korea 2-1. The Chinese coach, You Baodong, will be pleased that his top striker, Wang Mengyu has found her scoring ways again after a dry spell in the Hague at the World Cup and China will be eyeing their opening match against Canada with relish. The North American side lie 13 places below China in the world rankings and China will be confident of getting their HWL campaign off to a good start in Valencia.

There is no doubt that the Hockey World League Semi Final will be a high pressured event for China and Germany this year, as it will be both team's best chance of qualifying for the 2016 Olympics. China will be rueing their loss to Korea in the Asian Games, as their continental rivals will be able to contest the HWL, and possibly the HWL Finals in December, without the pressure of Olympic qualification hanging over them. For Germany, a poor result in Valencia will mean that they will need to do well in the European Championships in August.

But Germany has an uncanny knack of getting it right when it really matters. Coach Jamilon Mulders is an engaging and vivacious personality, who has proved that he is prepared to try unorthodox methods to get a win. Playing sweeper Julia Muller as a striker against Japan in the Champions Trophy was a case in point. Germany had failed to make any impression in the opposition’s goal circle until Muller took up her new role, but a brace for the defender spearheaded a victory. “We are always learning about the game and about each other,” said Mulders after that game. With two new assistant coaches in tow and a settled and experienced core of players, including the energetic Nina Hasselmann and the formidable Julia Muller, the teams in Die Danas’ pool will be wary of providing the platform for a German revival.

FIH site

Pakistan hockey squad off to Australia

PHF signs kits deal with local firm

LAHORE: A 25-member Pakistan hockey squad, 18 players and 7 officials, left for Australia in the wee hours of Wednesday to take part in the Four-Nation Tournament starting in Hobart from May 2. The national team, led by Mohammad Imran, departed with only 50 percent of their daily allowance for the last month. A cheque for the remaining amount was handed over to head coach Shahnaz Sheikh by the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF). "The cheque will be cleared on our return from Australia," Shahnaz told reporters before the team's departure, adding that the player and officials were determined to give their best despite the financial crisis.

The head coach said that the current hockey team were facing the same financial crunch that affected the players in 1960s when they hardly had any money to buy the basic necessities of life, but their supreme performance earned them timeless glory. "This team have performed well in the past two tournaments (Champions Trophy and Asian Games), and they are ready to repeat that performance and will surely be rewarded for their hard work and dedication," Shahnaz maintained. He also asked the Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination to clear the outstanding dues of the team in order to lessen the mental pressure on the players, adding that the PHF had signed a four-year contract with Malik Sports, who will be providing two kits for matches and two for practice sessions till 2018. Skipper Imran urged the players to continue the hard work they have done during the training camp in order to prepare for the World Hockey League in June, which would serve as qualifiers for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Cash-strapped PHF enters kits deal with Sialkot company: A Sialkot-based kit manufacturing company has signed a four-year contract with the cash-starved PHF which despite being beset by all financial problems sent players to Australia to participate in the Four-Nation Tournament starting from May 2. PHF secretary general Rana Mujahid Ali and Malik Zulfiqar of Malik Sports signed the contract just a couple of hours before the team's departure for Australia via Karachi. On the occasion, head coach Shahnaz was also in attendance. Malik Zulfiqar who is also former president of the Sialkot Cricket Association, said his firm signed the agreement at a time when the PHF was really in need of support from the public sector. His firm will provide kits of international standard to the country's hockey governing body in the first phase and the PHF will also be provided with funds after some time.

Talking about financial support to the PHF, Zulfiqar, who while claiming that the kits provided to the PHF matched up to the international brands, said every member of Pakistan team would get four kits in different colours, two for matches and as many for practice sessions. It may be mentioned here that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who is patron of the PHF received reports from different quarters that the PHF in the past had misused the funds it got from the federal government due to which the federal government wants to conduct audit of the PHF before releasing funds. However, the federal government is yet to appoint any auditor with the hockey federation having no funds at its disposal to make do with its routine tasks. It is pertinent to mention that had Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif not released a grant of Rs100 million during this period, the PHF would have faced more financial crisis.

The Daily Times

Hockey players fitness better than ever, says team doctor

Azhar Khan

LAHORE - Pakistan hockey team doctor Asad Abbas Shah has termed the fitness level of the players quite satisfactory and hoped they will produce better results during the series of events including Olympic qualifiers.

Talking to The Nation before the team’s departure to Australia where it has to play four-nation hockey tournament in Hobart, Dr Asad said: “Under the supervision of head coach Shahnaz Sheikh and others coaches, the players have trained very hard for the upcoming series and their fitness level is quite satisfactory. Two important tournaments before Olympic qualifiers will surely help the team prepare well for the crucial Olympic qualifiers and I hope the players will succeed in cementing their place for the Olympics.”

Dr Asad said that earlier, the ratio of injuries were very high as around 11 to 12 players had been facing minor and major injuries but now only two players were injured but their injury was recoverable, and with little extra efforts, they will be super fit.  Highlighting the importance of fitness during the hockey matches, he said: “The game of hockey is very improved and fast now and there is a need of 100 per cent fitness to perform exceptionally. Overall in a match, the role of fitness is 80 per cent. The more our players will be fit, the better the results will be.”

He also urged the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and Sports Board Punjab (SBP) to provide better and improved facilities as food, nutrition and even the accommodation too affect the performances of the players. “There is a dire need to pay more attention towards these areas and to provide players very healthy food and environment which will certainly help them to be more fit and produce better results.”  When asked about climate difference of Pakistan and Australia and would the players be able to adapt to the new climate, the team doctor said: “Yes, it is true that our climate is very hot and Australia’s comparatively very cold but there is no need to worry as our players will take two to three days to adapt to new atmosphere and perform better in cold weather.”  To a query regarding Pakistan chances’ of qualifying for the Olympics, Dr Asad replied: “As I have already told that Pakistan team fitness level is quite satisfactory and their participation in two important events before Olympic qualifiers will make their chances of qualifying for the Olympics quite bright.”

The Nation

Unfit Faizal dropped from Belgium playing tour

By Aftar Singh

National hockey forward Faizal Saari (left) in action at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh early this month. - Filepic

KUALA LUMPUR: Prolific goalscorer Faizal Saari has been dropped from the seven-match playing tour of Europe – because he is unfit.

Twenty players will leave for Belgium on Wednesday night for the two-week playing tour.

They will play two matches each against Holland and Belgium and three against clubs sides in preparation for the World League Semi-Finals in Antwerp from June 20-July 5.

Malaysia must finish in the top three in Antwerp to qualify for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

The exclusion of Faizal is a clear warning to all the players that they had better shape up or be shipped out.

Team manager Datuk Nur Azmi Ahmad said that Faizal failed a fitness test.

“He is an experienced forward but he needs to improve on his fitness level if he hopes to play in World League Semi-Finals,” said Nur Azmi.

“We’ve advised him to focus on his physical strength. Goalkeepers’ coach M. Nadarajah and physical instructor Jorg Teichmann will monitor Faizal’s fitness level.

“The national team will face a strong challenge in Antwerp to qualify for the Rio Olympics. So, we will only name fully fit players for the tournament.” 
The 24-year-old Faizal, who skipped training because he did not receive match bonuses, played in the six-nation Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Ipoh earlier this month despite attending only a week’s training.

Faizal, who was the top scorer in the World League Round Two in Singapore in January with 12 goals, failed to make much of an impact in the Ipoh tournament – scoring only two goals.

The Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) had set a target of winning the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup. Instead, they finished last in the six-nation tournament.

Nur Azmi also said that forward Mohd Shahril Saabah, who is still nursing a shoulder injury which he sustained last December, has been included for the Europe tour.

“I didn’t want Shahril to go but the coaches said that the doctors had given the player the green light to play,” said Nur Azmi.

The national team will return on May 11 and will continue training for a month before leaving for Antwerp to play two more matches.

In the World League Semi-Finals in Antwerp, Malaysia are in Group B with hosts Belgium, England, Ireland and China.

World No. 1 Australia, India, Pakistan, France and Poland are in Group A.

The 20-man squad
Roslan Jamaluddin, S. Kumar, Mohd Marhan Mohd Jalil, Mohd Haziq Samsul, Mohd Shahrun Nabil Abdullah, Mohd Sukri Mutalib, Mohd Firhan Ashaari, Azlan Misron, Nabil Fiqri Mohd Noor, Mohd Razie Abdul Rahim, Faiz Helmi Jali, Meor Mohd Azuan Hasan, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Tengku Abdul Jalil, Ahmad Kazamirul Nasruddin, Mohd Ramadan Rosli, Mohd Izad Hakimi Jamaluddin, Baljit Singh Charun, Izwan Firdaus Ahmad Tajudin, Azreen Rizal Nasir, Mohd Shahril Saabah.

The Star of Malaysia

Russell Ford Retires

Kookaburras forward Russell Ford hangs up his stick after 72 goals in 158 games

Olympian Russell Ford has announced his retirement from international hockey after 158 appearances for the Kookaburras in a decade-long career.

The Olympic bronze medallist, 31, scored 72 times for Australia including against the Netherlands in the Kookaburras’ 2-1 victory in the Champions Trophy final on home turf in Melbourne in 2012.

Since making his debut as a 22 year-old in a 4-1 win over India in June 2006 under then coach Barry Dancer, Ford has gone on to represent Australia at the Olympic Games, the World Cup, four Champions Trophies, two Oceania Cups, and the World League semi final and final tournaments.

Explaining his decision, Ford said, “I just believe the time is right to call it a day. I have spent ten years as a part of the Kookaburras and over the past months I have had time to refresh and make my decision with a clear mind.

“To play my first game was a privilege and a dream come true, and to be a part of such a successful program for this period of time is something I am very proud of.

“Growing up as a young boy, playing for Australia was something I always dreamed of doing and it has even exceeded my expectations."

Ford was part of Australia’s bronze medal-winning Olympic campaign of 2012 – scoring four goals in London, two of which came against the hosts [video] - and a member of the World Cup team in 2006 that won silver. Amongst his four Champions Trophy campaigns, in which he won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze, success on his home turf ranks highly amongst the Melburnian’s career highlights.

“Even though the result could have been better, the London Olympics is a real highlight. The whole Olympic experience is something I won’t forget,” he said.

“Playing in the Champions Trophy at home in Melbourne in front of my friends and family, and being able to win that final in extra time is another experience I’ll never forget.”

Kookaburras Coach Graham Reid, who has worked with Ford since 2009, said, “Russell is a true team player. He has been a major part of what the Kookaburras stand for over the last ten years. He was involved with three World Cup campaigns and two Olympic Campaigns, competing at the London Olympics in 2012.

“He is extremely respectful and well-liked by everyone. The words I think of when I think of Russell are resilience, perseverance, determination, ‘cracking goal shot’, and skillful. A great citizen and we wish him the best for his next challenges.”

Ford scored his first international goal in a 4-0 win over Argentina at the 2006 World Cup and made his 150th appearance for Australia against New Zealand in April last year. He was named as part of the Kookaburras’ squad for the 2014 World Cup but was cruelly robbed of his place after tearing his calf in a warm-up match against Germany just two days before the tournament. It was a cruel twist of fate after scoring in every game but one at the World League Semi Final tournament the previous year, helping to lead the Kookaburras to World Cup qualification. The injury ultimately ruled him out of the Commonwealth Games two months later.

Paying tribute to those that have helped foster his career, Ford said, “There have been many people who have influenced my career. Barry Dancer, for originally giving me a chance and my debut. And then Ric Charlesworth, who I think was able to get the best out of me. I owe him a lot for that.

“Thanks to Doncaster Hockey Club in Melbourne, and Melville Hockey Club in Perth. They have always been great supporters of me, as well as my VIS coaches John Mowat and Jay Stacy.

“My biggest supporters have been my family, especially my parents. I thank them for all their support over the years. Having them in the grandstands has meant so much to me. They gave up a lot in order for me to pursue my dream as a young kid and I am forever thankful to them.

“I also want to thank those close to me who have helped support me while making the decision to retire. While the decision has been a tough one, they have provided clarity and given me the support needed so that I can call it a day without any regrets.

“One of the hardest things about retirement will be not being able to train and play with my teammates every day. I have been privileged to be able to play with some of the best players in the world. And my time with the Kookaburras has allowed me to build some friendships that will last for a lifetime, which to me is as important as anything else. I sincerely thank them for helping create some of the great memories that I will take with me.”

This season, Ford has played in the Dutch Hoofdklasse and for Kalinga Lancers in the Hockey India League. For the time being, he hopes to remain in the Netherlands before considering a return to Australia to continue his career in athlete management.

Russell Ford’s International Career Highlights

June 2006 – Makes senior international debut in 4-1 win over India at Sultan Azlan Shah Cup

September 2006 – Scores first international goal in 4-0 win over Argentina at World Cup

September 2006 – Collects first silverware, a silver medal, as Kookaburras finish runners-up to Germany at World Cup

December 2007 – Takes home silver medal from Champions Trophy in Kuala Lumpur

August 2010 – Wins first Champions Trophy gold medal as Kookaburras beat England in Mönchengladbach

October 2011 – Helps Kookaburras to Oceania Cup gold medal over New Zealand in Hobart

August 2012 – Scores four goals en route to Olympic bronze medal in London. Ford was called-up as a replacement for the injured Des Abbott

December 2012 – Wins Champions Trophy gold medal in his home city, Melbourne. Scores in the final, a 2-1 extra time win over the Netherlands

December 2012 – Finishes at the Kookaburras’ top goal scorer with 19 goals in the year

June 2013 – Scores in every game but one, netting five times in total, to help the Kookaburras to the silver medal at World League Semi Final and secure World Cup qualification

November 2013 – Helps Kookaburras to Oceania Cup gold medal. Scores five goals in one match, against PNG, his first ever international hat-trick

December 2013 – Finishes as the Kookaburras’ top goal scorer with 20 goals in the year

January 2014 – Plays for Kookaburras in the inaugural World League Final in Delhi as Australia narrowly miss out on bronze medal

June 2014 – Misses World Cup campaign after calf tear sustained in practice match against Germany forces his withdrawal

December 2014 – Helps lead an inexperienced Kookaburras team to Champions Trophy bronze medal

April 2015 – Retires from international hockey

Hockey Australia media release

Mercurio's golden goal fires St Germain into final

Kevin Mercurio scored the golden goal that saw St Germain through to the French elite national final at the expense of Lille after a thrilling two-leg battle last weekend.

The two sides were inseparable over 140 minutes of hockey with the first leg ending 2-2 before the second tie finished 1-1 in normal time after Jean-Baptiste Pauchet had cancelled out Theo Ponthieu’s effort.

It sent the game to golden goal extra time and Mercurio was on hand the last ditch winner.

The result means St Germain join Racing Club de France in the final with both sides landing European places as a result of their performances.

For Racing, they produced a stunning second leg 8-0 win over surprise package Le Touquet to reach the final, annulling their 3-2 loss of a day earlier.

Indeed, Le Touquet raced into a 3-0 lead in that first game inside 18 minutes to put themselves in great shape. But goals from Jean-Laurent Kieffer and Olivier Sanchez meant they had a fighting chance going into the second leg.

And they wasted little time in getting into the driving seat. Sanchez levelled the aggregate score before James Kirkpatrick put Racing in front overall and they duly tore away with six further goals.

Racing will meet St Germain in the final on Saturday at 5pm in Paris.

Euro Hockey League media release

German leaders all drop league points

The top of the German league got incredibly congested last weekend with all of the top six sides dropping points on a double weekend, leaving HTHC, Rot Weiss and UHC locked on 32 points.

Harvestehuder hold top spot by virtue of their goal difference following a 1-1 draw with Krefeld last Saturday before they shaded a 2-1 win over rivals Uhlenhorst Mulheim as two goals in the opening four minutes – from Michael Korper and Daniel von Drachenfels – proved critical.

Rot Weiss lost ground with their 2-2 draw against UHC Hamburg on Saturday before they fell 5-3 to Club an der Alster on Sunday. Alster scored three times in the last 15 minutes to swap the lead Philip Rothlander, Constantin Staib and Julian Hofmann-Jeckel turning the tide.

UHC Hamburg also lost on Sunday, falling 2-1 to eighth place Mannheimer. They held on after Timm Haasse and USA international Patrick Harris had built a 2-0 lead by the 24th minute, only conceding one to Florian Fuchs in the closing quarter.

Mulheim remain fourth, two points off the top three, after they notched a Saturday win over Dusseldorfer before losing to HTHC. They are four points clear of Berliner and six ahead of Krefeld.

Euro Hockey League media release

The Road to Lee Valley: Reading seeing light at the end of the tunnel

Scott and Heaver celebrate for Reading

Reading men’s first team have had a bad season by their lofty standards. Late season back-to-back defeats to Canterbury and Wimbledon were enough to end their hopes of reaching the Championship play-offs and they have also suffered the ignominy of finishing in the lower half of the table as Cannock moved above them. For a club that is always among the top tier of English hockey, the trophy cabinet has been getting a little too dusty of late. At the time of writing, Reading are preparing for the Men’s Cup Finals, and if they go on to win the trophy, it will be a highlight in what has been a tough season.

For a club that has won the Men’s Premier League, the Hockey Association Cup and the European Cup Winners Cup, another trophy in the cabinet would signal a return to the very top of the tree.

For new coach Andy Watts, this has been a difficult first season in charge. “The season has been full of new challenges and ultimately proved a frustrating one,” he said. “We put ourselves in a good position at Christmas to mount a realistic top four challenge. However, since Christmas we have struggled with a number of injures and unavailability. This has meant we have struggled for consistency, but the cup has shown on our day we can compete with anyone.”

Watts cites the results against Cannock (a draw) and a home defeat to Brooklands as the key moments that put the playoffs out of reach for the Berkshire club. And, he adds: “We had games we were capable of winning in the second half of the season, but unfortunately didn't get off to the start we were looking for.”

A lack of goals, whether from the successful execution of penalty corners or just better finishing in front of goal are also a source of frustration to the coach, and it is one area that he says the team will work on for the new season. Another area that Watts is determined to improve upon is finishing the game well. “We must focus on closing out games. We have been in a number of great positions at half time and not come away with the result.”

Tom Carson rues a missed chance for Reading

While 2014-15 has not been a great season for the Blues, Watts says that the progress made by the younger players in his squad has been impressive. Reading has regularly fielded four under 18 players in the match day squads, and they have not only benefited from the experience, but also made big contributions on the day. And there is also that successful cup run, which again continues to give the whole squad an opportunity to shine.

Watts expects all the current squad to be available for selection next season, while he is actively recruiting for players to add depth to the team.

Pre-season training will be a luxury that Watts was not afforded last year. He explains: “I took the job on with only eight weeks to go before the first league game this year. So, this year it is up to me to ensure we have a full and structured pre-season. Also finalising our playing group before the start of pre-season will be a massive boost and will enable detailed preparation.”

Reading’s aim for next season is to get back among the top four. Watts’ appointment is part of a long-term strategy and the coach says the squad will be fully focused on challenging for the honours the club is so used to achieving.

Certainly Reading should be among the big players. It is a club with a long history – it was formed in 1904 – and it is one of the largest and most successful clubs in the UK. Both the men’s team and the women’s team play in the Premier Division of the national league and, while the men’s team is having, by their standards, a tough time, the women’s team have enjoyed recent success including the national league title in 2010/11 and 2012/13, adding the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy to their haul in 2012/13.

With 11 men’s teams, seven women’s teams, and a playing age range that stretches from five-years-old to players in their 70s, Reading is a club that looks after its hockey legacy. A new pitch was laid in May 2014, and with 400 senior members and 500 junior members in a club sprinkled with international players at all levels of the game, this is a club that strives continuously to reach its ambition of being a premier hockey club and a centre of excellence. If Watts can mastermind a cup win this Saturday, it will be a job well done for the Blue Army and a great reward for his first season in charge, keeping one of the top sides in the country dining at the top table once again.

Tickets are still available for Men's Knockout Finals weekend. The schedule of the weekend is below and tickets can be purchased here

Saturday 2nd May 2015

09:30 - NOW: Pensions Men's 2nd XI Plate Final - Lewes v Beeston
11:30 - NOW: Pensions Men's Vase Final - Coalville Town v Crawley
13:30 - NOW: Pensions Men's Trophy Final - Sheffield University Bankers v Guernsey
15:30 - NOW: Pensions Men's Cup Final - Reading v Surbiton
17:30 - NOW: Pensions Men's 2nd XI Cup Final - Cannock v Surbiton

Sunday 3rd May 2015

09:00 - NOW: Pensions Men's Masters O50s Trophy Final - Hereford v Sevenoaks
10:00 - Men's Masters O50s Shield Final (Pitch 2) - Bournemouth v Charnwood Mountsorrel
11:00 - NOW: Pensions Men's Masters O50s Cup Final - Reading v Harleston Magpies
12:00 - Men's Masters O60s Plate Final (Pitch 2) - Gloucestershire v Iceni Rex Essex
13:00 - NOW: Pensions Men's Masters O40s Cup Final - Stourport v Khalsa (Warks)
14:00 - Men's Masters O40s Shield Final (Pitch 2) - Norwich Dragons v Taunton Vale
15:00 - Men's Masters O60s Cup Final - Worcestershire & Herefordshire v Indian Gymkhana
17:00 - NOW: Pensions Men's Masters O40s Trophy Final - Henley v Cannock

England Hockey Board Media release

More England tickets available on Friday for the Unibet EuroHockey Championships 2015

Missed out on England tickets at the Unibet EuroHockey Championships 2015?

Thousands of additional tickets will go on sale to the public at 1pm on Friday 1st May for the Unibet EuroHockey Championships 2015, including the Semi-Finals and England sessions which had previously sold out.

Additional tickets are likely to sell very quickly so we urge you to secure your seats for Finals, Semi-Finals or England sessions as early as you can, to guarantee your seat at the game.

The expansion of the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre stadium has been necessary to meet demand for this much-anticipated event on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, featuring the best teams in Europe, including both England teams who will be aiming for medals.

To book tickets visit www.eurohockey2015.co.uk

England Hockey Board Media release

USA Field Hockey Proudly Announces 2015 National Hockey Festival and 2016 Presidents’ Day Showcase Teams

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. –  USA Field Hockey is proud to announce the teams who will compete at the 2015 National Hockey Festival in Indio, Calif. and 2016 Presidents’ Day Showcase in Sarasota, Fla.

As one of the largest events of its kind in the entire world, the National Hockey Festival brings together field hockey enthusiasts from all parts of the country competing in divisions ranging from Under-14 to adult to men.

Taking place at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, Calif. for the second year in a row, the 2015 National Hockey Festival will be held during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, November 26-29, 2015. The long tradition attracts more than 7,000 athletes, family and friends, college coaches and umpires for a showcase of talent, skill and fierce competition.

“The 2015 version of our traditional National Hockey Festival will be chock full of new upgrades as well the inaugural Presidents’ Day Showcase in 2016,” said Steve Locke, USA Field Hockey Executive Director. “The well-manicured fields at the Indio, Calif. Empire Polo Club will be cut to precise short lengths appropriate for hockey as will those at the Presidents’ Day Showcases’ host site in Sarasota, Fla. For our very important coaching and umpire communities, substantial upgrades will be in place to help in recruiting efficiency and enforcement of the rules. We’re really enthused to bring highly premium events to our athlete, coaching, umpire and their family and friend constituencies.”

The 2015 edition of the National Hockey Festival will feature over 88 different club teams from 17 different states. For the second year in a row, Pennsylvania holds the claim to fame as the hockey powerhouse with the most clubs from one state with a total of 36 club teams.

Our neighbors to the north, Canada, will feature eight club teams. Six teams from British Columbia and two from Ontario will fight for the chance to make their mark on California soil.

Click here to view the list of 2015 National Hockey Festival teams.

In its inaugural year, the Presidents’ Day Showcase is set to take place at the Premier Sports Campus at Lakewood Ranch, Fla., during the weekend of February 13-15, 2016. The event will focus on showcasing athletes in a competitive club tournament.

“A big thank you for all those clubs, teams and athletes who have registered for Festival and the Presidents’ Day Showcase,” said Simon Hoskins, USA Field Hockey Chief Operating Officer. “These are the two largest hockey events in the calendar and we are committed to providing a great hockey experience to all participants. We look forward to welcoming you to Palm Springs Calif., and Sarasota, Fla. next fall and winter.

The 2016 Presidents’ Day Showcase will consist of a total of 126 teams, made up of both U-16 and U-19 Divisions.

Click here to view the list of 2016 Presidents’ Day Showcase teams.

Registration for both events are still on sale and will remain so until all registrations are taken. If you would like to take a team or an additional team, please register here.

USFHA media release

'Luck by Chance' - On the Hockey Turf

It's a Sunday morning and you're about to start a game of hockey and suddenly a familiar face approaches you and politely asks 'can I get a game?'. You're stumped on a hockey turf because you don't know how to answer that question when a former Indian Hockey Captain is the one asking you that question.

by Amitoj Singh

A smiling pose after a game of hockey. © NDTV

Every Sunday morning a bunch of boarding school old boys and sometimes girls get together to play Hockey at the National Stadium. The prospect of that Sunday morning exercise gets us through whatever comes our way in the week. It's a rib-tickling morning with a bunch of jokers who connect with you in the way only boarding school folks can. For a few of us the Sunday morning forces us to curb our Saturday night shenanigans. Most of all it keeps us relatively fit. It's a different story that the Sunday morning game results in a lazy Sunday afternoon, evening and a stiff Monday.

Last Sunday was different. Like every other Sunday a sleepy few reached on time and a few others walked in late. The so called warm ups took place. The customary jokes on a few enthusiastic cutlets got everyone in the mood. The teams were divided and we took to the field ready to start the game. Just then a familiar face approached me and politely asked 'can I get a game?'. I was stumped. Could it really be? No! It can't. So out came the question. 'Are you Dilip Tirkey?' The gentleman calmly said 'Yes'. It was the humility with which Mr Tirkey, a former India Captain and a Rajya Sabha MP had approached us that bowled me over. Obviously we welcome him with open arms but the feeling of playing with a legend of Indian Hockey had still not sunk in. Tirkey is India's highest capped hockey international having represented India 412 times. In Cricket, that's a record Sachin Tendulkar holds for India. A Padma Shree awardee, a 2 time former member of the World All-Star team, and a man who has represented the men in blue in two Olympic Games, Tirkey had just walked up to play a game of hockey with a group of random blokes.

Playing Hockey in New Delhi isn't the easiest thing. Playing Hockey in New Delhi with a former Indian Hockey Captain near impossible.

What's more? We asked Tirkey what position he would like to play and he replied nonchalantly 'wherever you say'. The legendary full back would eventually play right forward for us. I was playing left half. For a large part of the game all I tried was to get the ball to him to see what he does with it. By the end of it I was playing right half and had spoilt our entire game plan. Tirkey's skill was there for everyone to see and while the speed was missing it was enough for a man who retired in May 2010, who has had an injury filled international career and who has recently had two ankle surgeries.

In the age of selfies, Tirkey obliged us with a few normal photographs. Eventually, he said 'Thank you very much for the game. I have to leave now'. Every day may not be a Sunday but this one single-handedly sure took care of all the luck for the next few Sundays.

NDTV Sports

Dar Hockey Academy - Never Ending Journey

By Ijaz Chaudhry

A few months ago, at the last Champions Trophy, the Pakistani hockey lovers had something to really cheer about after a long time. The national side reached the final of the Champions Trophy after 16 years. The semifinal win came against the traditional rivals India at the latter’s backyard. The hero of the memorable tie was Arslan Qadir who netted two goals including the last gasp winner.

It was also a triumph for the Dar hockey academy as Arslan- Pakistan hockey’s newest star- was its pupil.

The recently announced Pakistan team for the 4-nation tournament in Australia, starting in about a week time, includes two academy boys in Arslan Qadir and his brother Faisal Qadir. In recent times, the Dar HA boys are gaining frequent selection in the national senior side. Remember, it was in 2012, when Khalid Bhatti became the first pure product of the academy to win the national senior selection. It was three years further back, in 2009, the academy had first representation in Pakistani colours of any sort; the national under 18. And again it was three years back, the academy came into being; in 2006 with just seven colts.   

It has been a fruitful journey encompassing a lot of struggle. But at the same time there is no end to it.. The Dar HA has turned into a never ending reservoir of talent. The academy scouts are always on lookout for new potential that is then groomed for bigger battles.

The recent national junior championship is a testimony to it. Dar Academy’s 14 boys appeared for six teams. These included all the four semifinalists plus two sides who made to the quarter finals. This in itself speaks for the quality of the Dar academy’s trainees. Any side aspiring for glory needs them. 

Dar Hockey Academy Players at Pakistan’s National Junior Championship, 2015

National Bank of Pakistan (winners): Aamir Ali, Abid Bhatti and Sikander Mustafa
WAPDA (runner up): Bilal Mahmood
Sui Gas (third): Adeel Latif, Zeeshan and Adnan
Punjab ‘A’(fourth): Aamir Yaqoob, Ahad, Suleman and Asif
PIA (quarter finalist): Waseem Akram
Railways (quarter finalist): Usman and Shaani

Ijaz Chaudhry writes on hockey and other sports. For more about him and his work, visit www.sportscorrespondent.info


Allan Woods passes away

Long serving Member of USFHA, PAHF and FIH

2005 PAHF Congress, Cuba - PAHF Order of Merit for Allan Woods (USA) (Photo: Yan Huckendubler)

The news of the passing away of Allan Woods on April 26th 2015 at the age of 83 reached us - PAHF - with great sadness.  Our sincerest sympathies goes to his wife Pam, his daughter Amanda and his grandchildren.

It can be said that Allan was a true American. His dedication to Hockey goes back as a player when being part of the USA in the Olympic Qualifier 1964. Later together with his friend John Greer and before the merger of IFWHA and FIH he was the leader promoter and motor of the FHAA/USFHA serving this body for 28 years.

He became a member of the FIH Council for 12 years then chairman of the FIH Equipment Committee and received the Diploma of Merit from the FIH in 2003.

Elected to the board of the PAHF in 1979 he remained there until 2005 when he became the first receiver of the PAHF Order of Merit.  He served PAHF and FIH as Technical Official, Judge and Tournament Director in indoors and outdoors Competitions including Olympic Games, World Cups and Champions Trophies.

 He was truly passionate about US and International Hockey. He ran several workshops concerning Equipment in the US always with great attendance. He edited his quarterly and later annual newsletter about US hockey activities as well as International news which was circulated to his many friends around the world. His presence at International Tournaments as well as Golden Oldies will sadly be missed by all that new him and will remain in our memories.

Pan American Hockey Federation media release

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