This weekend sees the return of the Euro Hockey League, with Round 1.1 of this pioneering event taking place at Eindhoven’s HC Oranje Zwart (NED).
The host club is greatly looking forward to hosting a tournament that will feature 12 of Europe’s finest club teams aiming to achieve qualification for the Knock-out rounds of the competition which take place at Easter. A further 12 teams will be taking to the field in two weeks time as Spain’s Atlétic Terrassa HC host Round 1.2.
Many of the world’s most recognizable players will be competing in this year’s EHL. World class stars such as Christopher Zeller (Rot-Weiss Köln / Germany), Eduard Tubau (Club de Campo / Spain) Moritz Fürste (UHC Hamburg / Germany), Lucas Vila (HGC / Argentina) and legendary Dutch international Jeroen Delmee (Oranje Zwart) will all be hoping to get their clubs off to the best possible start in this year’s competition.
Many of the matches from the tournament will be broadcasted live by Eurosport 2, with the Euro Hockey League’s Live Stream providing coverage of all games throughout Rounds 1.1 and 1.2. More information about the teams competing this weekend can be found below, with further information about the Euro Hockey League being available on www.ehlhockey.tv. Tickets for the event are still available. For more information, click here.
Round 1.1: Oranje Zwart HC, Eindhoven (NED)
Pool B: Rot-Weiss Köln (GER) / Club de Campo (ESP) / Royal Racing Club de Bruxelles (BEL)
The all-star line-up of Rot-Weiss Köln claimed a second successive season in the Euro Hockey League by winning Germany’s national championship. The team defended their Bundesliga title by defeating double EHL champions UHC Hamburg in the championship final, and will be keen transfer their domestic dominance into European success following last season’s Quarter Final exit to Spain’s RC Polo. The line-up remains virtually unchanged from last season, featuring Beijing 2008 Olympic Gold medalists Tibor Weissenborn, Max Weinhold (GK) as well as the immensely talented Zeller and Wess brothers. Fascinatingly, the team has strengthened their squad by signing exciting young Dutch international Robbert Kemperman.
Madrid’s Club de Campo may be first time qualifiers for the Euro Hockey League, but their team contains some names that will be very familiar to fans of the competition. Former Club Egara superstars Edi Tubau and Guillermo “Willy” Schickendantz – a player who was the EHL top scorer in the 2008-2009 Season – are both key performers for the team. Other stars include versatile Germany international Oliver Markowsky and Spain striker Victor Sojo. New signings have arrived in the shape of Eric-Jan Iding (HGC) and Ronan Gormley (Pembroke Wanderers), adding extra quality to a team coached by legendary Spanish international Xavi Arnau.
RC Bruxelles are competing in their first ever Euro Hockey League competition following a second place finish in the Belgian league behind KHC Dragons. Belgian teams have always been strong performers in the EHL and certainly should not be underestimated. The “Racing Rats” made a great start to their national league season by defeating reigning champions KHC Dragons, while Belgium internationals Jerome Truyens and Tom Boon are two high quality players well worth watching. RC Bruxelles will be confident that they can upset the odds this weekend.
Pool E: KHC Dragons HC (BEL) / UHC Hamburg (GER) / Izmaylovo Moscow (RUS)
KHC Dragons stormed into their first ever Euro Hockey League competition by winning the Belgian championship last season, and have strengthened their squad in a bid to take on Europe’s elite club teams. Last season’s side contained a number of renowned and respected Belgian international players such as former KHC Leuven goalkeeper Manu Leroy, while impressive new signings have arrived in the shape of Olympian siblings Charles and Loic Vandeweghe as well as Ireland legend Stephen Butler, formerly of Glenanne HC. The mighty Dragons of Brasschaat will be determined to make a big impression on the EHL in 2010/2011, and have a squad which could take them a long way in the competition.
What more can be said about UHC Hamburg? Their EHL results speak for themselves, having lifted the Alain Danet Trophy both in 2008 and 2010 as well as achieving a second place finish in 2009. Lead by inspirational captain and powerhouse midfielder Moritz Fürste, UHC are strong in virtually every position on the field. They have an outstanding goalkeeper in Nico Jacobi who is protected by star defender and penalty corner expert Patrick Breitenstein. They are not short of attacking quality either, with senior Germany internationals Florian Fuchs, Carlos Nevado, Philip Witte and new signing Oliver Korn being joined by prodigious U-21 striker Marco Miltkau. Their outstanding squad and confidence in European competition ensures that UHC will yet again be one of the pre-tournament favourites.
Thanks in part to Dinamo Elektrostal’s victory in the EuroHockey Club Trophy earlier this year, Russia climbed the EHL rankings table to secure a second spot in this year’s Euro Hockey League. EHL regulars Dinamo Kazan are joined by Izmaylovo Moscow, who were runners up in the Russian league last season. Izmaylovo are a strong unit with a number of top class players, with Russian international forward Dimitry Azarov being arguably the team’s most gifted player. The 25-year-old is a prolific goal scorer for both club and country, having produced stunning performances in both the outdoor and indoor versions of the game.
Pool F: Pembroke Wanderers (IRL) / HGC (NED) / Olimpia Kolos Sekvoia (UKR)
Pembroke Wanderers are participating in their third Euro Hockey League competition in four years, and will be looking to build on their achievement of reaching KO16 last season. The team have lost a significant number of players from that squad, with Ireland captain Ronan Gormley (Club de Campo – ESP), striker Alan Sothern (Den Bosch – NED), Andy McConnell (Hurley – NED), as well as Conor & David Harte (both SCHC) all heading to new pastures. South African player coach Craig Fulton has also left, but compatriot Brendon Carolan has taken over in the position as head coach and will be determined to bring even more success to the champions of Ireland.
Dutch giants HGC make a welcome return to the Euro Hockey League following a two season absence from the competition. They famously contested the first ever EHL final in the 2007-2008 Season, losing a dramatic final against UHC Hamburg by virtue of an extra time Silver Goal. The club is back amongst Europe’s elite thanks to a second place finish in last season’s Hoofdklasse. HGC has various top class players such as Rob Short of Canada, Spain’s Rodrigo Garza of and new signing Lucas Vila of Argentina, but will have to cope without recently departed England internationals Barry Middleton and Ashley Jackson as well as legendary Netherlands keeper Guus Vogels, who has called time on his playing career.
Ukrainian champions Olimpia Kolos Sekvoia return for a second Euro Hockey League season following their debut in 2008/2009. On that occasion the side failed to get out of a strong group containing the All-Stars of Amsterdam H&BC (NED) as well as Polish champions WKS Grunwald Poznan. It will be no easier this time around, but Kolos have a talented group of players that has the potential to surprise. A key player for the side is team captain Ruslan Pashkovskyy, a Ukrainian international defender who has won the national championship an incredible ten times in 12 seasons with the club.
Pool H: Dinamo Kazan (RUS) / Oranje Zwart (NED) / KS Pomorzanin Torun (POL)
Russia’s Dinamo Kazan have qualified for every season of the Euro Hockey League since its inception in 2007, but have only managed to make it beyond the group phase just once in that time, reaching KO16 Egara in the inaugural season. However, the champions of Russia are always incredibly dangerous and will certainly make life tough for Pool H rivals Oranje Zwart and KS Pomorzanin Torun. It is the second successive season that Dinamo have been drawn against a Round 1 host, having been defeated 7-2 by RC Polo at the same stage of last year’s competition. Pakistan international Imran Warsi is a wonderful exponent of the penalty corner drag flick, ensuring that Dinamo are always capable of winning matches.
Oranje Zwart are the proud hosts of EHL Round 1.1, having achieved their first ever Euro Hockey League qualification thanks to a third place finish in the Dutch Hoofdklasse. Like all Dutch sides that have played in the EHL, you can be sure that “OZ” will be a serious contender to lift the Alain Danet trophy, and with a squad containing superstars such as Australian international Rob Hammond, David Alegre of Spain and veteran Dutch international Jeroen Delmee, it is hardly surprising. The team is coached by Sjoerd Marijne, the man who guided Amsterdam H&BC to a third place finish in last year’s competition. Will he be able to take his new team even further this year?
In recent years, Poland’s national league has been dominated by WKS Grunwald Poznan, a team that has qualified for each of the first four Editions of the Euro Hockey League. However, last season Grunwald were given a real run for their money by KS Pomorzanin Torun in the Polish Championship final, before eventually losing the best of three series by two games to one. It was a sign that they are clearly ready for their first shot at the EHL, entering the tournament with the aim of reaching KO16. Star striker Karol Szyplik netted an incredible 57 goals during last season’s campaign, suggesting that he will be a player to watch during Round 1.1.
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