Chandigarh:Innovations introduced in the Premier Hockey League (PHL) have not only made the game more interesting but is now catching the fancy of Europeans who want to emulate a lot of things from in Chandigarh.
PHL is the Indian Hockey Federation's (IHF) domestic club tournament that not only features top foreign players but also the best of hockey talent from India.
Inspired by its success, the Euro Hockey League has been formed for the promotion of the game.
"PHL started thinking out-of-box in 2004 and some of these innovations are now part of the international hockey rules. We even inspired the setting up of the Euro Hockey League," says PHL's technical consultant and the coach of Spain's national side Maurits Hendriks.
One interesting change: four quarters instead of two halves in the 70-minute game. "The four quarters make the game faster. It also allows top players to play all the time instead of going out to rest," Hendriks pointed out.
Another interesting change is in the penalty shootout. Started in the third edition of the PHL last year, it saw players taking the ball towards the goal from outside the 'D' while running and then taking a shot instead of just placing the ball inside the 'D' and hitting a stroke.
This unique penalty shootout will continue this year.
Till last year, the two top teams in the league played the final. But from this year, the four top teams will square off in semi-finals first. "This should help increase the level of competition among the teams reaching that stage," Hendriks said.
Given the unsavoury incidents in last year's final when Sher-e-Jalandhar players assaulted umpire Satinder Sharma, the IHF and PHL organisers have brought in new rules to enforce discipline.
In this fourth edition of PHL, a green card will not be a mere warning. It will lead to the suspension of the player from the field for two minutes.
"No player should cross the line. Fair play norms have to be there. We want to enforce discipline while maintaining the level of competition," Hendriks said while justifying the new rule.
The new penalty corner rule states that it can only be stopped with a stick and not the body of a player. If a player violates this rule or "breaks early" from the goal line, the umpire can send the player to the 50-yard line.
Extra time is being truncated this year. Instead of two halves of seven and a half minutes each, extra time will be two halves of five minutes each.
Instead of having only the 'golden goal' that led to the match being ended when a side scored a goal in extra time, PHL will introduce a 'silver goal' this time. If a goal is scored in extra time, that half will have to be completed.
"Big changes are happening in hockey. Hockey in India itself is entering an interesting phase with PHL around," Hendriks concluded.