EHL: After five years of Euro Hockey League competition, it is the first time that an EHL tournament is held in England. What does it mean for East Grinstead HC to play host of Round 1.2?
Simon Longhurst: “It is important for us to attract major hockey events to this country regularly; the EHL is the top club tournament in world hockey and certainly fits that ambition. From an EGHC perspective, we are a relatively small club but feel a responsibility along with the other English qualifiers to play our part in doing that. We are delighted to have been chosen by EHL and England Hockey and it is exciting to be trusted with the responsibility but also to be working with pioneers in the game.”
EHL: How important is it for EHL to spread its wings and to be in England the first time?
Jons Hensel: “It is not only important for EHL to come to England, it is also very important for hockey in general. In the past the Dutch position in EHL has been very strong because of sponsors. It was my aim to spread EHL over several hockey countries such as the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Belgium and England. As England was not part of it before, I really enjoy being here, especially because the English Hockey is growing very quickly.”
EHL: Is it something special to host an EHL tournament in the Olympic year as many Olympians and Olympic medallists are coming to Grinstead?
SL: “It is great for the broader profile of hockey. These athletes are role models and it certainly helps continue to the buzz from the Games.”
JH: “The London Olympic Games were an impressive sports event. The hospitality and the commitments of the volunteers made it a positive experience for everybody. I am convinced that we will see the same energy at East Grinstead HC in the same magnitude.”
EHL: Do you think the players participating in the EHL are role models for the young generation?
SL: “The creation of role models has been an important part of England and GB communications strategy for the past 12 to 18 months in particular. We have tried to mirror that and are fortunate that we have a number of “local heroes” in our own squad. We definitely see evidence from the way the supporters behave at Euro Hockey League that there are role models in every team and we encourage our squad to behave responsibly and set an example. My experience of our club’s players and the GB players I have met is that they are all dedicated, athletic, intelligent, sporting and responsible. I can see they take care of themselves and I believe they are great role models. I can see – in many cases – that they are credible role models when set against those we more commonly see in the public eye from football, cricket, rugby, and so on. This is one of the reasons we are excited to bring EHL to England; to give young people the chance to see and interact with these role models up close and personal. Ashley Jackson is one of the examples of someone that kids just want to be and it would be great to showcase “more Ashley Jacksons” to young British kids. These top players and their behaviours on and off the pitch make the difference between a young person choosing to play hockey or another sport.”
JH: EHL is a big club event meaning direct contact to the players involved is guaranteed. This positive connection between every participating team and all youth teams in its club is part of the tournament. While you have 18 heroes in a national team, the players participating in EHL are all heroes for the youth teams in their clubs.
EHL: Do you think it is an advantage for Grinstead and Reading to play Round 1.2 on home soil?
SL: “I know our GB players had a fabulous positive experience from the support they received during the home Olympics; the margins are tight at this level and home support definitely makes a difference at crucial moments in games. We will be looking to make sure that both East Grinstead and Reading can benefit from home support!”
EHL: What do you expect from the English teams Reading HC, East Grinstead HC and Beeston HC in this EHL season? Do you think they are strong enough to reach the Final Four?
SL: “We would like to think all three teams are strong; Beeston have certainly strengthened their ranks during the summer and both East Grinstead and Reading have made a number of changes, freshening their line ups. I suspect that, like us, both Beeston and Reading have their eyes on progression to the Final Four but all three of us know that the KO16 and KO8 are challenging rounds.”
EHL: Do you think Hockey in England can benefit from the EHL being played in England?
SL: “We want casual sports fans to turn on to watching hockey. The Olympics showed there is potentially a fantastic demand in this country and people have been asking when they can next see live hockey. The timing of EHL coming to England is perfect to capture the public interest. We would like existing players and club officials to come and see EHL to help expand its popularity too.”
JH: No doubts about it. To watch the Olympics on home turf was a great experience but to see top hockey on club level will enhance the total feeling.
EHL: Can you tell us something more about the cooperation between EHL and England Hockey?
SL: “I think it is important for our sport that there are strong relationships between the governing body, the clubs and also entities like EHL. My understanding is that England Hockey Board is pleased we have shown the ambition to host this event and sharpen our approach to showcasing major majors. EGHC could not possibly do this on our own. England Hockey has brought experience and guidance once we were selected and I think they feel as we do; that it is enjoyable working together.”
JH: “My vision is that EHL is nothing without the EHF and the National Federations. In my opinion the commitment between EHF and the National Federations is very important. England Hockey took responsibility to support EHL because EHL is only possible with sponsorship and financial support. I hope that many other National Federations will follow this direction.”
Source: Euro Hockey League
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