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.
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.
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.
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).
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.