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KHL heads to Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena

Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena will host a Kontinental Hockey League fixture later this year as the Russia-based ice hockey competition resurrects its KHL World Games venture.

The regular-season game will see reigning Gagarin Cup champion Avangard Omsk play Ak Bars Kazan on December 3. The 17,000-capacity Coca-Cola Arena opened in June 2019 and has a capacity of 12,000 seats for ice hockey games.

A Memorandum of Understanding has been agreed between the KHL, Hockey Club Avangard, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and Dubai Sports Council. Under the MoU, the four parties have agreed to develop ice hockey in the United Arab Emirates, with the Dubai Ice Show the first step towards achieving this goal.

The Dubai Ice Show will be held from December 3-5, with the KHL game forming part of the event alongside the Sleeping Beauty ice show. Running on December 4-5, the show will feature performances by Olympic figure skating champions Tatiana Navka and Alina Zagitova.

Alexey Morozov, KHL president, said: “We are excited that the KHL World Games project will resume after almost two years.

“The UAE will become the 15th country to host a KHL game, and we are very pleased that the most recent Gagarin Cup winner Avangard Omsk and the only three-time champion in our League, Ak Bars, will go to Dubai. The last playoff series between these two teams was one of the best in KHL’s history.

“The UAE is a promising market for hockey, and we will make every effort to ensure that Dubai has an outstanding and memorable first visit from KHL.”

The KHL World Games launched in October and November 2018, with SKA Saint Petersburg, CSKA Moscow, Dinamo Riga and Slovan Bratislava, then playing in the KHL, playing a series of games in Vienna and Zurich. The KHL had also scheduled World Games fixtures for 2020 but these were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

December’s KHL World Games event is designed to play a part in Dubai’s Expo 2020, which commenced on October 1 and will run through to March 31. December 4 will be the official Day of Russia at Expo 2020.

Ahmed Al Khaja, chief executive of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment at Dubai Tourism, said: “The Dubai Ice Show highlights Dubai’s position as a leading events destination and also supports the city’s ongoing efforts to boost sports tourism.

“With ice hockey being a very popular sport followed passionately by millions of fans around the world, Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment is pleased to provide its utmost support and cooperation in promoting this game further in this part of the world, especially through our well-known digital platform, Dubai Calendar, which curates and manages the official listing of key events and entertainment in Dubai.

“We look forward to welcoming to our city, the internationally acclaimed hockey teams, as well as world famous figure skating stars. With the health and safety of all guests, team members, performers and staff remaining our top priority, the hosting of the ice hockey event also reaffirms Dubai’s position as one of the world’s safest destinations.”

Image: KHL