With a dazzling display of skills and some of the best-known faces in men's international hockey on show, the Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) is back for its fifth edition.
The event, which takes place in cities across India, sees the world's elite players representing franchises in a six-week long glorious celebration of all that is good about the game.
The teams, in which players are bought in an auction, is a combination of Indian players and top foreign players from around the globe.
Fast, furious action on the field and packed stadia full of knowledgeable, enthusiastic and noisy crowds. Big, bold and loud is the FIH Hockey Revolution goals and HIL certainly delivers.
The matches are all broadcast and streamed live through Star Sports*, so audiences across the globe can watch and admire the power, speed, skill and sheer professionalism of the players.
This year’s event, which springs into action on 21 January with a opening match between Dabang Mumbai and Ranchi Rays, culminates in a glittering final on 26 February, at the Chandigarh Stadium, home to last year’s champions, Jaypee Punjab Warriors.
As defending champions, Jaypee Punjab Warriors will be among the early favourites for the title this year as they return to the fray with some familiar faces from their winning squad.
These include two of last season’s stars Armaan Qureshi and SV Sunil, plus the voices of experience provided by Mark Knowles and Mink van der Weerden.
Looking to turn last year’s final table on its head will be the Uttar Pradesh Wizards. The team finished in sixth place in 2016 but with national favourite PR Sreejesh in goal and Argentina's Olympic gold medal winning hero Gonzalo Peillat leading the search for goals, this will be a team you would be wise not to discount. The addition of young Belgium superstar Arthur van Doren and the Netherland’s Seve van Ass make the Wizards a force this year.
The winners in 2013 and 2015, Ranchi Rays, are a team looking to restore their standing as the number one side. To help achieve that aim, the MS Dhoni-owned franchise splashed out a whopping USD $75,000 for Germany’s Christopher Ruhr. This makes Ruhr, who is debuting at the HIL this year, the highest paid foreign buy this season.
Returning to the Ranchi franchise is India’s Manpreet Singh who recently revealed that playing for one of India’s most successful cricket captains is a real inspiration: “The single most important motto of our team is to stay cool like MS Dhoni,” said the midfielder.
Delhi-based side and 2014 champions, Delhi Waveriders, will be captained once again by New Zealand’s Simon Child, while the defence is shored up by the arrival of Belgium goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch. Last year’s Player of the Tournament, Rupinder Pal Singh, will once again be a popular figure with the supporters.
Kieran Govers and Jeremy Hayward are entering their third season with Dabang Mumbai and the two forwards are among a number of Australians who will be using the HIL as a chance to pit their skills against the best in the world.
Fellow Australian Jay Stacey has the reins as coach of Dabang and he will be hoping to lead his side to at least a Semi-Final berth this year after missing out by a whisker in the 2016 season.
The final team of the super six are the Kalinga Lancers. Coached by New Zealand’s Mark Hager, this is a team that will not be short on fire power with Australian hot-shot Glenn Turner leading the attack.
Last year the Lancers made the final but were comprehensively outplayed by Jaypee Punjab Warriors, but the previous two editions had seen the Lancers finish sixth and fifth, so this is a team that is making fast progress.
The teams have all arrived in India and Twitter and Instagram is full of pictures and snippets of information from training sessions. The next six weeks promise to be full of amazing hockey action so keep tuned in and enjoy this spectacular hockey showcase. Live streaming is available here and you can keep up with the results and news via the Coal India Hockey India League website.
*In the following territories, the Coal India Hockey India League will be shown on the below networks: