A Canadian team that broke barriers for the next generation is being inducted in the Field Hockey Canada Hall of Fame. The 1983 Men’s National Team was the first Canadian field hockey team to win gold at the Pan American Games, doing so in 1983, in Caracas.
“One of the things this team has done is break barriers,” said Nick Sandhu, a player on that team.
In the previous two Pan American Games, Team Canada had reached the gold medal match and lost both times to Argentina. The win was especially satisfying for those athletes who were returning from the previous cycle(s).
Heading into 1983, the team made a number of adjustments including hiring a new coach, new team manager, and filling out their roster with young, confident players.
“We had this younger group coming in who were strong and skillful players,” said David Bissett, captain of the 1983 team. “They didn’t have any baggage with Argentina.”
The team also placed an emphasis on strengthening their mindset, as they hired sports psychologist Dr. Saul Miller. “He really got us mentally ready,” said Paul Chohan, a FHC Hall of Famer and member of the 1983 team.
Team Canada dominated their group-stage opponents of the 1983 Pan American Games as they went undefeated, only conceding three goals. This secured the team a semi-final matchup against Chile. Canada defeated Chile 3-0 in the semis, setting up a rematch against rival, Argentina.
“Everybody expected Argentina to win because they were the perennial Pan American champions and had a better world ranking than we did,” said Shiaz Virjee, the manager of the 1983 Canadian team.
However, external expectations did not impact the team’s mindset heading into the gold medal match.
“This is the day we have been waiting for my young boys, this is a day that’ll never come again,” said Head Coach of the Canadian team Shiv Jagday one day prior to the matchup. “Let’s not let this opportunity go out of our hands, we are going to make it happen.”
Bissett recalled a key penalty corner stop in the finals while Canada was defending a 3-1 lead, he said that was the moment he knew the team was going to make it happen. “I knew then that we were going to win,” he said. “I said ‘not today,’ this is our day…this is our day.
Team Canada held onto their 3-1 lead and defeated Argentina to win Canada’s first ever gold medal at the Pan American Games.
The win locked Canada into the 1984 Olympics, its first Summer Olympics in eight years. Much of the core of the team stuck around and won the 1987 Pan American gold medal, earning a bid to the 1988 Olympic Games. The next time Canada would earn back-to-back Olympic berths wouldn’t be until 2016/2020.
Congratulations to the 1983 Men’s National Team on being inducted in the 2020 Field Hockey Canada Hall of Fame. The team that set the example for men’s programs for decades to come.
Paul ‘Bubli’ Chohan