CANADIAN ATHLETES LEAVE HONG KONG WITH AMAZING EXPERIENCE AND MOTIVATED FOR MORE
Last summer, Field Hockey Canada sent three teams to the World Masters Championships in Spain. This February, riding off the momentum from last summer, three Canadian teams showed up in Hong Kong ready to take on the world at the 2019 Masters Indoor World Cup.
The inaugural IMHA & WMH joint effort proved to be an amazing tournament with terrific competition across all divisions, held at a world-class venue. Canada committed teams in the men’s O40 division and O50 division and in the women’s O45 division. This also marked the first time that Canada has sent teams to a world indoor masters championships.
Louis Mendonca, Director of Canada’s indoor program and coach of the Men’s O45 team — that competed in the O40 division — said the event exceeded their expectations from both a competition standpoint and on the operational side.
“We felt like we came quite prepared to this event but it was really competitive,” he said. “It was so cool to see such a world class quality of hockey at this event.”
The men’s O45 team finished with a 3-2-2 record, good for fifth place at the event. They lost out on a chance at the semis only by point differential. They beat North American rivals, USA in the 5/6 placement game in a shootout. Mendonca said his team performed well, especially after losing their first two games.
“We felt like we were right in every game,” he said. “We were there, we had the chances. We had a few simple strategies that we performed well and it gave us a chance to win.”
He said this experience and this tournament most certainly will motivate the masters hockey community in Canada to attend the next international event which is scheduled for Prague in two years’ time.
“The guys are still talking about it; it was such a great experience,” Mendonca said. “The masters community keeps the sport alive, keeps the sport growing and we’ll definitely be back to compete at the next one.”
Sharon Rajaraman coached the women’s O45 team to a fourth place finish at last month’s world championships. She echoed a lot of the sentiments that Mendonca and other attendees felt about the operational side of the tournament.
“The hosting committee did such a great job. It’s a huge undertaking and it was very professionally run,” she said. “What a great experience for all the players.”
The women’s O45 team started the tournament well by defeating the Australian O50 squad but was then held winless for the rest of the event. According to Rajaraman, the team’s 3-4 loss to Germany in the semifinals was their best game and showed that they could play at this international level.
“We played an amazing game against Germany,” she said. “We really felt like we were in it until the very end. It’s very motivating for us to get to that level.”
Cara Jay, Canada’s leading goal scorer at the tournament thinks this event will spur more masters-aged players to pick up the stick and compete for Canada.
“I think after we’ve come back and even in the build-up to Hong Kong, there was a growing enthusiasm for indoor masters hockey,” Jay said. “It’s so great to play in an age-appropriate international competition. The opportunity is fantastic.”
The men’s O50 squad faced tough competition and couldn’t come away with any victories on the court but according to Mendonca, the whole program came away with a positive feeling from the event. He said that this event will build momentum in the Canadian masters community for future competitions and future years.
INTERNATIONAL MASTERS HOCKEY: COMPETITION WITH COMMUNITY
Of course, the competition at any world championships is fierce. Teams from all across the world came to Hong Kong last month to battle for a world title and compete with intensity on the court. One of the unique elements of masters competition, as pointed out by the returning Canadian players, is the emphasis on community and socializing. The tournament organized socials and opened up opportunities for the teams to get together and meet one another.
It’s this social element that adds to the experience. According to Jay, teams were meeting up with each other, meeting new players from different countries, exchanging email addresses and talking about future events.
“What a great way to represent your country,” Jay said. “We are meeting and bonding with new people from around the world.”
Mendonca said that this opportunity allows for people to combine their love of hockey and to travel and have access to a social community no matter their age. Both programs anticipate growing their ranks and increasing the number of athletes that will go to the indoor and outdoor world championships.