Belgian hockey is on the rise… no doubt about it. A better national competition is the foundation for it all. The introduction of some quality foreign players several years ago gave a quality injection. Better funding of the national teams has been another game changer for Belgian hockey. Allowing for top coaches, better training facilities, better physical and mental preparation and the guts to be innovative to make the difference.

Gadget_stickA good example is the XXXL stick for the goalkeeper used by Jeremy “Mimi” Gucassoff, one of the goalies from the Red Lions and the goalie for Racing. The idea came from Olivier Nonnon, the assistant coach of Racing and a fanatic when it comes to indoor hockey. No stranger to out of the ordinary sticks himself, playing with some strange looking devices himself in his younger days he came up with the idea of  the extra long stick for the goalkeeper to be used during shoot outs. It is too long for comfortable playing during regular playing time…

Even though Gucassoff has been training with the stick almost a year now the first time we saw it in action was during the World League Finals in India in January of this year. He made some spectacular and important saves with it during a shoot out session and surprised the world. The EHL we are enjoying at the moment in Eindhoven presented itself as the second opportunity to show it is making a difference… With his club team Racing Gucassoff was playing the German top team Rot Weiß Köln and as deservingly as surprisingly his team managed to keep the Germans to a draw during regular playing time and once again the spectacular shoot outs – another great innovation to come out of the EHL for our game of hockey in recent years – would be decisive. And again he surprised his opponents with his XXXL stick, who really should have known better if they had done their homework,  to make some great saves and help his team to the next round. Check out the story and the pictures of this XXXL stick by clicking here (EHL website). Or check out the video below:

ehltrophySo if Belgium in the recent past was already proud of obtaining the third ticket for a Belgian club at the EHL, also when the Dragons for the first time made it to the final last year… today is another proud moment for the rise of Belgian hockey. We are the only country with 3 clubs among the top 8 in Europe! Yet another milestone in our road to the top. Next on the list…. winning the EHL for a Belgian club and a gold medal at a major tournament for the Red Lions…  However I think the days are over they could surprise the other clubs and nations. Belgian hockey is on the rise and it’s no secret anymore…

But let’s be careful and not take this progress for granted… hard work and staying innovative as well as hungry are key ingredients to keep the momentum going!