In the Persian Gulf, temperatures regularly measure in the triple digits. That fact alone would make the area a highly unlikely place for ice hockey to find a home. Yet, the sport has become increasingly popular in the region, and the International Ice Hockey Federation is taking note.
"The locals have really improved. They are training six days a week, two to three hours a day. We used to beat them with hockey sense and knowledge. But they're starting to get that now."
-- Hugo Blomfield
While the United Arab Emirates has been an IIHF member for a few years now, their involvement in international ice hockey has accelerated since 2008. Inspired primarily by Sheikh Falah bin Zayed al Nahyan, a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family and current president of the UAE Ice Hockey Association, hockey has taken off in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, as well as other Emirates, particularly Dubai.
"When I moved to Abu Dhabi, all I brought was my work clothes, warm-weather clothes, and my hockey gear," said Hugo Blomfield, a Canadian expat who moved to Abu Dhabi for work in 2005 and currently plays defense for the Abu Dhabi Scorpions of the Emirates Ice Hockey League. "[At first] we had maybe 20-30 guys. We kind of just did a few drills, practiced a little bit and then scrimmaged. The rink itself was Olympic size but kind of run down. It didn't have any proper benches or boards. It was mediocre quality."