Having captured the hearts and minds of the British public at London 2012, some of the world’s best hockey stars are set to return this weekend as the Euro Hockey League comes to England for the first time.
A number of the stars of the Olympic Games will be on show with the likes of Great Britain’s London 2012 trio Ashley Jackson, Glenn Kirkham and Jonty Clarke set to feature, as well as their international teammates the Mantell brothers, Richard and Simon, Mark Pearn and Niall Stott. Competing alongside hosts East Grinstead are Reading and, from Scotland, Glynhill Hotel Kelburne.
Joining the British contingent are top sides from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Austria and Ireland. Among their ranks are likely to be five members of Germany’s Olympic gold medal winning team and Dutch silver medal winning pair Teun de Nooijer and Robbert Kemperman.
Ahead of the tournament, Sally Munday, Chief Executive of the England Hockey Board said: “It’s fantastic that an event of the stature of the Euro Hockey League is going to be hosted in England just 11 weeks after the conclusion of the greatest Olympic Games in history. What we saw in London was a British public that truly embraced hockey as it is in the 21st century; fast, skillful and exciting. We said several years ago that we would build on the success of London 2012 by hosting and facilitating more major hockey events in this country and I’m delighted that East Grinstead will host the EHL.”
EHL Round 1.2 at East Grinstead HC gets underway on Friday morning, with the top two teams from each of the four Pools reaching the thrilling KO16 tournament which will take place next Easter. More detailed information about the competing teams in each Pool can be found below.
Pool B features English champions Reading HC, 2012 EHL Bronze medallists KHC Dragons (BEL) and Saint Germain HC (FRA).
Reading are playing their sixth consecutive Euro Hockey League tournament; so far they have never failed to qualify for KO16, and claimed the Bronze medal in the 2010-2011 season. Reading are currently sitting fourth in the England Hockey League table having just won two of their six matches so far.
Dragons are the only club from Belgium to have ever won an EHL medal. The Belgian runners-up are currently ranked a lowly sixth in the league, but have recently celebrated their third victory in this season. Dragons and Reading met in the Quarter Finals both in both 2011 and 2012, with Reading taking victory in 2011 before Dragons gaining revenge the following season.
Saint Germain are French runners-up after losing the Final 3-1 to Lille MHC. The Paris-based side return to the Euro Hockey League following their absence from the last two seasons.
Host club East Grinstead HC will face Belgian champions Waterloo Ducks and SC Stroitel Brest (BLR) in Pool D.
The English runners-up have started slowly in the England Hockey League, currently being fifth in the table having won just two of their six matches so far.
Waterloo Ducks enter the competition in excellent form thanks to a recent 4-3 victory over former EHL Semi Finalists KHC Leuven keeping them at the top of the Belgium Hockey League. Despite of having ten national players of Belarus in their squad, Stroitel Brest will need to be at their very best if they aim to qualify for KO16 ahead of either Round 1.2 hosts East Grinstead or Waterloo Ducks.
Pool G sees French champions Lille MHC facing HC Bloemendaal (NED) and Irish champions Lisnagarvey HC.
Bloemendaal are favourites to win Pool G. They have five players in their squad including Teun de Nooijer and goalkeeper Jaap Stockmann who were part of the Dutch national team which won Silver at the London Olympics. The 2009 EHL champions are currently top of Dutch Hoofdklasse thanks to their latest 5-0 win over Laren. Man of the match was Nick Meijer scored four goals in the clash.
Lille Métropole Hockey Club won the French championship thanks to a 3-1 victory over Saint Germain in Paris. They also finished first at the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy held on home turf in April 2012.
Lisnagarvey HC won their first all-Ireland title since 2005 when they defeated Dublin YMCA 3-1 in the Final of the Irish Hockey League. The win earned them Ireland’s only EHL place. The team are playing their first season in the Euro Hockey League.
Scottish champions Glynhill Hotel Kelburne will compete in Pool H together with Rot-Weiss Köln (GER) and Austrian champions AHTC Wien.
Rot-Weiss are participating in the Euro Hockey League for the third time. They qualified as German runners-up after suffering a 2-1 defeat against Berliner HC in the Bundesliga Final. Their squad contains three London Olympic Gold medallists, making them big favourites to win Pool H. Although double Olympic champion Timo Wess has retired from hockey, Köln still have immense quality throughout their ranks. However, Rot-Weiss recently played 4-4 against last-ranked SC Frankfurt 80. Having won just four of their nine matches so far, Cologne are fourth in the Bundesliga.
Kelburne finished second in the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy 2012 after losing the Final 3-2 to tournament hosts Lille MHC (FRA). The team retained their national championship for an eighth successive season, and completed a domestic double by winning the 2012 Scottish Cup 2-1 against Grange HC.
Wien won their sixth consecutive Austrian league title to take their total number of championships to 24. AHTC participated in two previous EHL editions but never reached Round 2 so far.
Eight teams have already qualified for Round 2 at the EHL Round 1.1, which was held two weeks ago in Barcelona. These are Beeston HC (ENG), Amsterdam H&BC (NED), HC Rotterdam (NED), Berliner HC (GER), Atlètic Terrassa (ESP), Royal Léopold THC (BEL), HTC Uhlenhorst Mülheim (GER) and Club de Campo (ESP).
Free live-streaming, video highlights, action photos, match summaries and all official documentation will be available on www.ehlhockey.tv , the official website of the Euro Hockey League. Tablet users can view the live stream at http://sport.nl/live/ehl/.
Sources: England Hockey / Euro Hockey League
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