CANADA SEES SUBSTANTIAL IMPROVEMENT SINCE LAST WORLD CUP AND REMAINS HOPEFUL FOR 2020
A month after the sun set on the Grand Masters Hockey World Cup, where Canada saw its first-ever National Men’s 60+ team take the pitch, three Canadian Masters teams marched out during the EXIN Masters World Cup Opening Ceremonies with new goals in mind and new hopes in tow.
Held in Terrassa, Spain from July 27–August 5, 2018, the Masters World Cup was a chance for two teams to improve on their performances from two years ago in Canberra, Australia, and for the Women’s 55+ team to emerge back onto the World Cup stage. With the tournament going down in history as the largest field hockey competition ever, it was nothing short of spectacular.
The first Friday saw a day full of exciting action from the Women’s 50+ team who started their campaign under a stellar lunar eclipse against New Zealand, a team ranked sixth in the tournament. Though they were dominant off the second half, they dropped the match 1-2 and were looking to build on their performance.
The team would go on to drop their group stage matches against Scotland and Netherlands, finding itself in an extremely competitive pool, but remained in high spirits going into their placement round. Their hard work and dedication paid off with a convincing 4-0 win against France, marking the first ever win for any Canadian Women’s team at a Masters World Cup.
With the historic victory and a superb 8-1 win over Italy, the Women’s 50+ team finished 14th overall out of 16 teams and set an example for fans and players alike. Coach Cara Jay remarked how incredible the entire experience was, stating that it was an exciting opportunity to be a part of.
“It is an honour to represent Canada,” she said. “Although I [wanted to] be playing, it was a rewarding experience as all my players wanted to be there and improved so much.”
The Women’s 55+ team kicked off the tournament just hours before the Opening Ceremonies with a matchup against the experienced no. 3 ranked England side. England opened up the scoring early on in the game, which the Canadians responded to with their first ever goal in international play after regrouping during the halftime break.
As returning team member Fran Sloan Sainas described it, the women showed “great perseverance and determination” throughout a game that ended 7-1 in England’s favour.
“We played hard but were outperformed by the more experienced opposition,” she said. “However, not only have our numbers increased but our performance and results have improved. This year, with dedicated coaches, all teams were able to practice and build a sense of community before the tournament.”
The next few days were challenging for the Women’s 55+ side as they dropped matches against Ireland and Netherlands despite showing strong defensive efforts. The women concluded the tournament with close placement matches, featuring superb goaltending and two more goals in matches against USA and Wales to secure a ninth-place finish.
The Men’s 50+ team started Canada’s World Cup campaign an hour before the Women’s 50+ side with a match against Netherlands that was dropped 5-1 after quick offensive attacks from the Dutch. A 3-2 loss against USA meant that the men would have to play for placement later in the tournament, but not without a fight.
The Canadian men walked out beside New Zealand on a hot Monday afternoon for their final group stage match. New Zealand was quick to strike, opening with a goal in the 4th minute off a penalty corner. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter and final minute of the game when Canada’s efforts were rewarded after a shot on goal from Juggy Mahal.
The Canadians found themselves in a tough pool as the Aussies went on to win gold, with the Dutch following closely behind with silver. Nevertheless, redemption was sought following a definitive 9-0 win over Argentina and 3-2 win over Zimbabwe that led them to finish in 14th place.
THE ROAD AHEAD
As another Masters World Cup concludes, the future of Masters Hockey in Canada remains bright. Compared to two years ago, Canada has produced an additional team for contention — certainly providing a sense of growth within the masters program.
Alison McGillivray, who played with the Women’s 55+ team, said, “We are one of the few nations to have the word ‘field’ in front of the word ‘hockey’ on our kit bags. There is a feeling that we are ambassadors for the sport…[and] I am confident that the World Cup will inspire many Canadian[s]…to continue playing at a high level.”
For McGillivray and Sloan Sainas, the thought of the next World Cup is no stranger to the teams. After closing out a positive experience in Spain, talk about their plans in 2020 has started even before the Closing Ceremonies this Monday.
“Although Canada is relatively new to international Masters Hockey, with the enthusiasm and higher profile of the program we would like to double that number for 2020,” McGillivray added.
And so the journey for our athletes resets and begins again. Be sure to follow Field Hockey Canada’s social media and website for more information on how to be a part of the action in two years’ time. Until then, watch the video to relive this year’s highlights.