DOUBLE champions Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club will have five new faces when they start the defence of their Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) titles when the tournament starts on Sept 17.
Nine teams will play in the Premier Division and Division One with five teams doing battle for honours and a single slot for the TNB Cup, which is the knockout stage.
The Premier Division teams are KL Hockey Club, Sapura, Tenaga Nasional,Maybank, UniKL, Yayasan Negri Sembilan, Nur Insafi Penang, Armed Forces and UiTM.
The five teams in Division One are Bukit Jalil Sports School, Ipoh City Council, SSTMI-Thunderbolt, Uniten and Unimap.
The league starts with a Charity Shield match between defending champions KLHC and TNB. All the Premier Division matches will be played at the refurbished National Hockey Stadium. It will be a single round league with Oct 9 the last day of league matches.
Teams in Division One will play home and away with matches in Alor Star, Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur.
The KLHC five players who have either quit playing or moved to other teams are Megat Azrafiq Megat Termizi (Sapura), Noor Faez (UniKL), Khairul Nizam (Sapura), Hairulnizam Maizan and Mohamed Suffian, who has been elevated to the post of assistant coach for KLHA.
And their replacements are Ahmad Kazamirul, who played for Sapura last season, Mohd Syamim (UniKL), Mohd Fitri Saari and Mohd Harfizi, who kept goal for Yayasan Negri Sembilan last year.
KLHC's current internationals are Shahrun Nabil, Fitri Saari, Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, Azlan Misron, Nabil Fiqri, Roslan Jamaluddin, Shukri Mutalib and Kelvinder Singh.
And KLHC's ex-internationals, some who are still good enough to play in the current national side, are Chua Boon Huat, Ismail Abu, Harvinder Singh and Ahmad Kazamirul.
"Defending titles is always difficult as our opponents will always play a notch higher when up against us. But I am confident my charges will be able to withstand the pressure," said KLHC team manager George Koshy.