The European Hockey League on the March

european hockey

The EHL rivals the excitement of the UEFA Champions league.

The European Hockey league showcases the best that hockey can offer and it’s giving the UEFA champions league audiences a run for its money. Billed as the pinnacle of hockey – can’t really argue with that – it’s the ultimate club hockey competition. The tournament consists of the 24 highest ranked clubs from 12 EHF – European Hockey Federation – member countries. After the initial round, it becomes a thrilling knock-out contest. The conception of the EHL was a mishmash of two other competitions, and the new format was launched for the 2007-2008 hockey season.

Thus far, the tournament winners have alternated between the Dutch and German teams, but more importantly, the top teams included a multinational squad line-up. Featuring international players and attracting the world’s best means the competition is nicely poised for continued success. The 2017/18 season saw eleven countries represented including two teams from Russia, which incidentally included an Indian Olympian and an Argentinian in the Dinamo Kazan team.

The race for qualifying places is decidedly fierce, and there isn’t a better example of dogged determination paying off than Wimbledon HC. Historically, it is one of the oldest clubs and most certainly the first established ladies club in existence since 1889 – that’s really old. In 2016/17, Wimbledon became the first English club to reach the final 4 – they were thrashed after that but it was a valiant effort nevertheless.

Tournament Format

Commercially, the tournament is properly financed by three major shareholders: The EHF – European Hockey federation; Southfields – a sports entertainment company; and Mediapro – a TV production company. Recently, some big-time corporate sponsors have climbed aboard, most notably, Red Bull and Mercedes Benz. The Dutch banking giants ABN AMRO are the named tournament sponsor, which is a huge indictment of the bank's vision for its sponsorship foundation, and the EHL’s credibility.

Prize Money

The prize money on balance seems a bit derisory in comparison to other sports. Some may say that money doesn’t matter – only a nincompoop would believe this. In any case, any moderately impartial hockey commentator will probably bleat on for hours about the necessity for more investment. The rewards might not be titanic at the moment but the passion is real.

Three-time winners, HC Bloemendaal, is the oldest club in the Netherlands, and was found in 1895. To begin with, they played a novel game called bandy – another peculiar English 19th century pastime taken seriously – before eventually settling for field hockey. This year’s winning 19-man squad consisted of 15 Dutch players, a Spaniard, an Australian, a German and a Belgian, who all played magnificently during the 2017/18 tournament. In round 1, they whizzed past Wimbledon, 4 – nil, and SV Arminen, 15 – 2 they soared straight into the last 16 knock-out – KO16 – contest, beating KHC Dragons, 8 – nil. Moving onto the KO08, they breezed past Saint Germain HC, 8 – nil. The quarter final was a little more challenging but they prevailed, winning 6 – nil against the much-fancied and tournament favourites, HC Rotterdam. Their remarkable journey continued into the eagerly awaited final where they dispatched SV Kampong, 8 – 2.


Bloemendaal’s Japp Stockmann signed off after 14 years with the Dutch side. It was a glorious and perfect finale to an amazing field hockey player. He said after the game, “To end your career after a fantastic tournament in such an atmosphere, and on your own fields in front of the fans, there’s nothing better”. Impressively, he won five national titles, but winning a third EHL title is the jewel in the crown of an exceptionally gifted player's career.

In addition, the Australian Jamie Dwyer confirmed that he would return to his native homeland after playing six seasons with the team. The 39-year-old said, “For now I’m done. I will take a well-earned rest with my family but I’ll definitely miss the Sparrows”.

The third step on the podium was fiercely contested between Herakles and the eventual winners HC Rotterdam. The first half of the game was played at a blistering pace with neither side wanting to concede. This riveting spectacle continued with fast moving end-to-end play, and it was 2 - 2 going into the fourth quarter. The fans were on tender hooks. A few seconds after the restart, Rotterdam scored, and the stadium erupted. Herackle's equalised and the status quo had been restored. Everybody was transfixed. Only 65 seconds remained on the clock, and Sanz del Campo flicked home. What an amazing game. It was full of twists and turns, and to cap it all, it was witnessed by an ecstatic crowd in a sold-out arena.

The grand final’s outstanding performance award went to the man of the match Xavi Lloenart, who is due to return to Spain for the next season.