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Hockey India League

Hockey India League Logo

The Hockey India League, or HIL, is a top sporting organization run by Hockey India. You should know that Hockey India is the sole body in charge of the development of field hockey in India. Since Coal India sponsors HIL, this league also goes by the name Coal India Hockey League.

The Hockey India League comprises of six teams and the league season spans two months from January to February. Each team plays ten matches in all, with the top four teams advancing to the play-off stage. The match winner in the finals gets the Hockey India League season title. You can say Hockey India League closely follows the India Premier League in its format. However, this league didn't have a smooth start. Read on to learn more about the HIL from its inception to today.

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    Start of the Hockey India League

    In 2012, the Indian Hockey Federation started its World Series tournament in association with Nimbus sports. The idea behind this launch was to professionalize Indian hockey. However, this Series failed because the International Hockey Federation did not recognize it. There was another reason behind this failure. The Indian Hockey Federation wasn't the official body representing Indian hockey. In fact, the Indian Olympic Association had dismissed the Indian Hockey Federation in 2008 for mismanagement and corruption.

    The following year, Hockey India or HI started the Hockey India League with the approval of the international sports body. As mentioned earlier, HI is the official face of Indian hockey. Initially, Hockey India had planned for six teams in the new Hockey India League. However, only five teams could be formed. These were the Uttar Pradesh Wizards, the Punjab Warriors, the Delhi Waveriders, the Ranchi Rhinos and the Mumbai Magicians. ESPN Star Sports was the league's official telecasting partner.

    Inaugural season and match

    The Delhi Waveriders and the Punjab Warriors played the first match of the first season. Delhi beat Punjab 2-1 in this match that was played in the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium in New Delhi.

    Season 1 of the Hockey India League saw some marquee signings. Some top players who played this season include Sardara Singh and Sandeep Singh from India. The top overseas players were Jamie Dwyer, Moritz Furste, and Teun de Nooijer. In fact, Furste and Nooijer were members of the Olympic gold medal squads of their respective countries (Germany and Holland, respectively). Furste won the gold in 2008 and 2012, while Nooijer was a member of the 1996 and 2000 Olympic gold medal winning squads.

    In the inaugural season, each of the five teams played against each other three times and the top four made it to the semi-finals.

    Ranchi Rhinos won the first season of the Hockey India League after beating Mumbai 2-1 in the finals. Delhi were the runners-up. In all, 147 goals were scored in all the matches. Sardara Singh was chosen as the player of the tournament. Sandeep Singh from Mumbai was the leading goal-scorer in this league.

    Season 2

    The second season saw the entry of the sixth team, the Kalinga Lancers, into the league. The Delhi Waveriders won the title this season after trouncing Punjab 3-1 in a penalty shootout. Jaap Stockmann was the player of the year in this season. The finals were played in the Birsa Munda Stadium in Ranchi.

    Now, with six teams in the league, each team had to play two matches against every other side, one home and one away. An auction took place before the second season started, and there were a good many players available for bidding.

    There were 120 players in the pool, but just forty-nine of them were auctioned. Punjab acquired Sandeep Singh in the auctions, and the drag flicker lived up to his past reputation. Singh scored the most goals in the second season and helped his team finish in second place. Punjab scored thirty-four goals in ten matches.

    Season 3

    The third season of the Hockey India League had a huge prize money of INR 5,5 crores. However, the season had its share of controversies. The Mumbai Magicians and the Ranchi Rhinos left the league because of their quarrels with Hockey India. Dabang Mumbai and the Ranchi Rays stepped in to fill the gaps. The Rays went on to win the Hockey India League title by beating the Punjab Warriors in the finals with the Delhi Waveriders taking the third spot.

    A total of 139 goals were scored by all the teams. Ashley Jackson of Great Britain, who plays for the Ranchi Rays, was the Player of the Tournament. He scored12 goals in 10 matches.

    Season 4

    The 2015-16 season ushered in an important rule. All field goals fetched two points, while penalty goals carried just one point. As a result, all the teams in the fourth season went in for youthful players.

    The Punjab Warriors won the season after beating the Kalinga Warriors in the finals. Delhi took up the third spot. Kalinga scored 39 goals in ten matches, and Rupinder Pal Singh was crowned the Player of the Tournament. Glenn Turner of the Kalinga Lancers scored the most goals (16).

    Season 5

    The Kalinga Lancers avenged their defeat in Season 5 by beating Mumbai in the finals 4-1. Florian Fuchs was named the Player of the Tournament.

    Hockey India League Board

    Steve Crafton was the original Competitions Director at the start of the first season of the Hockey India League. The other members of the League were Rajiv Shukla (a former minister and journalist), Arun Jaitley (a former politician and lawyer), and Rajat Sharma (a media personality).

    Todd Faulds was the Competition Director for the second season. He was the tournament director in the 2012 Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH) Men's Champions Trophy and the 2012 International Super Series in Perth.

    Bjorn Isberg has been the tournament director for the Hockey India League since 2014. Isberg has guided the 2012 London Olympics hockey matches as well as three Champions Trophy tournaments (2004, 2007 and 2011).

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    Current Teams

    There are currently six teams in the Hockey India League. 

    Dabang Mumbai

    Owned by DoIT Sports Management, the aim of Dabang Mumbai is to help regain its past glory in field hockey. India has won the Olympics gold eight times in the past. Interestingly, DoIT also owns a Pro-Kabaddi team.

    Dabang has entered a technical collaboration with a European hockey franchise, HC Bloemendaal, a field hockey team from the Netherlands.

    The Delhi Waveriders

    Waves Group owns this team. The Delhi Waveriders has Shivaji Stadium as its headquarters and boasts several prominent names in its ranks. Cedric D'Souza is the chief mentor of this team. If you are a hockey buff, you would know that D'Souza was a key player in the Indian national squad. Delhi has had several overseas players. Some names include Simon Child from New Zealand, Austin Smith from South Africa and Tristan White from Australia.

    The Kalinga Lancers

    KAL or the Kalinga Lancers is jointly owned by the Odisha Infrastructure Development Corporation and Mahanadi Coalfields. While former Australian great Mark Hager is the head coach, Dilip Tirkey is the chief mentor of this talented team. An ex-India captain, Tirkey was one of the most difficult defenders in field hockey in his heyday.

    In the 2017 season, KAL had players from Germany, Australia and the Netherlands.

    The Punjab Warriors

    Jaypee Group owns this franchisee, and Jagbir Singh serves as the chief mentor of this team. Former Australian player Barry Dancer is the head coach of the Punjab Warriors.

    The Ranchi Rays

    This team replaced the Ranchi Rhinos in 2014 and the team is owned by cricket legend Mahendra Singh Dhoni. 

    In the 2017 season, Ranchi hammered Kalinga 7-2 and Mumbai 7-3. However, in the same season, Rays went down tamely 0-7 to Punjab.

    The Uttar Pradesh Wizards

    Uttar Pradesh has given some of the best players to India hockey. Some famous names include Dhyan Chand, Ashok Kumar and K.D. Singh. Thus, it is perfectly natural that this state has its own hockey franchise.

    Sahara India Pariwar and cricketer Suresh Raina are the proud owners of the Uttar Pradesh Wizards. Uttar Pradesh will always be remembered for its two hat tricks in 2013 and 2014. In 2013, Raghunath scored a hat-trick to help his team beat Punjab 4-3 in Ranchi. Next year, he repeated this feat and his team beat the Mumbai Magicians 5-3.

    While Dhanraj Pillay is the technical director of the team, Roelant Oltmans of Holland is the chief coach of the team. Uttar Pradesh has players from South Africa, Belgium, Argentina, and Australia in its ranks. However, this composition hasn't helped the team win a single title since the Hockey India League started.

    The team boasts P.R. Sreejesh in its ranks. As a hockey buff, you must know that Sreejesh was instrumental in India winning the bronze in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

      Summary

      There is no doubt that the Hockey India League is a successful sporting organization now. Much of that success can be attributed to India's sterling performance in several international championships. Today, India has a solid hockey base, and thanks to this foundation, many international players are heading to India. Even cricketers are turning to hockey, and this is a good sign. For instance, Dhoni and Suresh Raina are the proud owners of Ranchi and Uttar Pradesh, respectively. This will help Hockey India League attract die-hard cricket addicts and increase in popularity over time.


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      Gian Chacko

      Sports enthusiast with love for cricket, football and sports in general. Holds 10+ years of following and writing about sports and lately also betting.