MPs play hockey for charity in Dubai's desert

A group of Conservative MPs is lacing up the skates Wednesday to play a game of hockey for charity. That's not unusual for the politicians but the location is: the desert emirate of Dubai.

A team of Conservative MPs has descended on the sweltering desert to play ice hockey for charity.

The six MPs — Patrick Brown, Gord Brown, Rick Dykstra, Ben Lobb, Brian Jean and Brian Storseth — are lacing up with National Hockey League Hall of Famer Mike Gartner to take on the Dubai Mighty Camels. The game will raise funds for autism research and other local charities.

The MPs are paying for their own flights and hotels, making the long trip to the United Arab Emirates in the name of friendship and charity.

"We have used our love for hockey to raise funds for causes we care about," Brown told CBC News in an email from Dubai. "There is no government role here. This is a personal trip amongst a few friends for three days."

Brown helps organize the Hockey Night in Barrie event – an annual charity game that draws hockey pros, celebrities and politicians and raised more than $226,000 this year for cancer hospital funding and research.

Ron Murphy, captain of the Dubai Mighty Camels, says his team is looking forward to playing against the politicians to test their "calibre."

"Obviously having Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Gartner on their team will be a fun experience. Even though Gartner is in his fifties I imagine he can still play," Murphy said. "We have some guys who can play too, so it will be a fun, competitive game. I still have to give the edge to the Camels as we have home ice advantage and they will be jetlagged."

The Mighty Camels team — which stakes claim to playing the "coolest game in the desert" — is an expat club made up of mostly Canadians in a league that includes more than 20 nationalities. The puck drops at the Dubai Mall rink Wednesday.

The Canada-U.A.E. relationship has been under some strain in the last few years over aviation landing rights, coming to a head in 2010 when the U.A.E. evicted Canada's Camp Mirage military base outside Dubai. Mirage had been used as a staging ground for the Afghanistan mission, with officials and troops transiting the base on their way to Kandahar and Kabul.

The U.A.E. also imposed a travel visa on Canadians visiting the country.

Murphy hopes Wednesday’s match will also serve some diplomacy on ice.

"We have a pretty large Canadian community that would like to see relations between the two countries strengthen back to where they were a few years ago. Hopefully this game will help a little," he said.