WHILE about 3,000 fans went home feeling satisfied when the Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) curtains fell on Sunday, a handful of coaches were either not impressed, or want drastic changes in place for the next season.
The TNB Cup fan-fare was well planned, and there was drama worth the travel to Bukit Jalil as Terengganu Hockey Team (THT) and Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) battled neck-and-neck.
Sixty-minutes could not separate the teams who stood at 1-1, and even the five shoot-outs ended 3-3.
THT finally laid their hands on the TNB Cup, and a double double, by winning sudden-death shoot-out at 5-4.
Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) Technical Director Terry Walsh was among the thousands, but he was not impressed.
"If you ask me about drama, about a close finish its right there. But if you ask me about other areas... (he kept it to himself)," said Walsh while the prize-giving ceremony was ongoing.
Newly appointed national coach Stephen van Huizen was seated next to Walsh, and he is in no hurry to select a training team from this bunch: "There are no immediate assignments, and so, there is no hurry in naming the training pool just yet."
And at the press conference, KLHC coach K. Dharmaraj was more vocal about the MHL.
"Don't get me wrong, I am all for players to earn a good keep by playing in the MHL, but money is becoming a big problem right now.
"Local players are being paid big bucks and I mean really, really big amounts to secure the best. And the problem here is that the pool is very small, and these players are now demanding even more and are willing to give their very best to their clubs.
"However, it has and will back-fire in the long run, as they do not show the same determination and zest when playing for the country.
"In the long run, some players might just have the attitude of giving their best for clubs, while going through the motions when they receive a national call-up," said Dharmaraj.
Some of the local players receive up to RM20,00 per month, and it is not only for the six-week MHL, but are contracted for at least a year.
KLHC had lost many players to THT early this season, and the bargaining and pinching of players has already started -- for the next season.
Sapura coach Tai Beng Hai and Maybank coach S. Vellapan were also of the opinion that foreign and national players should be restricted to six per-team.
"Well I believe it would be better if the small pool of national players be equally distributed among clubs so that there will not be a big disparity in results. This can be achieved if say, clubs are only allowed to hire six professional players. By professional I mean national and foreign players.
"So each club can, lets say, field three national and three foreign players or at any other combination, but only six professionals per-team.
"This would see a healthier tournament, and the fans would also be kept guessing right till the end, and not know the results by just comparing club team-lists," said Beng Hai, a former national coach.
Maybank's Vellapan echoed the same opinion as Beng Hai.
This year's league was as predictable as the haze hitting Malaysia every year. And from the first whistle, it was a battle for titles between THT and KLHC while Tenaga Nasional, Maybank, Sapura and University Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) were just there to make up the numbers.
And if the other four also-rans want to lay their hands on the titles next year, they must be willing to fork out more than RM20,000 and a lucrative contract to secure the best available locals.
As for the foreign legion who came from Argentina, Pakistan, Ireland, India and South Africa -- they were a big let down -- and their contracts offered peanuts compared to what the cream of the locals received.