It is exciting times for the teams who originally qualified for the 2020/2021 season’s EHL Cup as a replacement competition is all set to take place in late September and early October of this year.
Covid-19 restrictions had meant the original competition had been reduced to a Final4 format, held at Easter time, meaning a lot of the qualified teams missed out.
The draw has been made which will see Surbiton's women take on Irish side Pegasus in the Final4 on Saturday 2 October with the final set to be played the following day.
Meanwhile, Hampstead & Westminster face German outfit Mannheimer HC whilst Surbiton tackle KHC Dragons of Belgium in the men's KO16, both on Saturday 2 October.
For Surbiton's men and women, and Hampstead & Westminster men, this presents a great opportunity to pit their talents against some of the other leading European clubs in this prestigious competition.
Surbiton's Women's Head Coach Brett Garrard is enthusiastic about the challenge.
“It is a great motivator for our players. We really wanted to go to the main competition [at Easter] and we couldn’t [because of Covid restrictions] but playing in any European competition gives us a great challenge, playing against different teams and styles.
“I am using it as preparation for the main event next Easter. Doing it in October is a great start to the league season and hopefully whets peoples’ appetites for what will come at Easter.”
Garrard is also delighted that the competition will give him a chance to see new members of the squad perform in a European competition early in the season.
“Normally, we play a season of domestic league and then we would have three days of intense EHL competition, without the new players having any prior experience. So, from that respect, this is a great preparation for me and them.”
Surbiton have managed to play some competitive matches during the windows of opportunity offered by lockdown relaxations. In recent months they have played 12 matches against local teams such as East Grinstead and Wimbledon, as well as the England Hockey Development squad and the club’s junior men’s side.
“These matches offered me a chance to breathe and a chance to actually coach and introduce some new ideas. These matches, plus the EHL Cup, are all opportunities for me to develop the players ready for next season.
“There is a real excitement about what next year can bring. Having this tournament in Hamburg, which is one of the best hockey hubs you can ever experience. UHC has a great history and is a fantastic club so what a great place to go and play.”
Matt Guise-Brown is a long-serving athlete with Hampstead and Westminster. Recently he was crowned top scorer at the inaugural Y1 Men’s Hockey Championships as Hampstead and Westminster took the title. That experience has whetted the penalty corner specialist’s appetite for more hockey.
“It will be fantastic to actually compete again, the Y1 Cup we recently took part in was so, so enjoyable after not playing any hockey for so long. Playing hockey again in October will be just great.
“For the club’s progress, events such as this are very important. To pitch yourself against some of the best clubs in Europe is a huge challenge but a very enjoyable one. The EHL that we played in Barcelona a couple of years ago was exactly that.
“The quality of the league in England is obviously good, but then it is a big step up when you start playing clubs from other countries and it is really nice to test yourself against some really good players and really good teams.
“It is obviously a challenge after a busy summer. Some of the guys are off to the Euros and various other things. With club hockey, even if you get to the finals of the England League, you only play 20 league games, so to add another four games is an exciting prospect. Yes, it is a challenge but the excitement of playing far outweighs the challenge. And to play with the team again is something we are all looking forward to.”
The men’s competition is being hosted by Belgium’s national champions Dragons, while the women’s competition will be held at UHC Clubanlage in Germany.
EHL Women’s Cup entrants (October 2-3, 2021): UHC Hamburg (Germany), Surbiton (England), Pegasus (Ireland), HC Minsk (Belarus)
EHL Men’s Cup entrants (September 30 – October 3, 2021): Mannheimer HC (Germany), Rot-Weiss Köln (Germany), SV Kampong (Netherlands), HC ’s-Hertogenbosch (Netherlands), La Gantoise HC (Belgium), KHC Dragons (Belgium), Club de Campo de Madrid (Spain), Surbiton (England), Hampstead & Westminster (England), Dinamo-Ak Bars (Russia), Dinamo Elektrostal (Russia), Saint Germain (France), Three Rock Rovers (Ireland), HC Minsk (Belarus), SV Arminen (Austria), Grange (Scotland).EHL Cup Schedule