One of the most accomplished coaches in Canadian hockey history is being inducted into the Field Hockey Canada Hall of Fame in the coach category. Shiaz Virjee is a former manager and head coach for Canadian Men’s National Team, and now plays a significant role in mentoring young Canadian talent.
“It’s a tremendous honour, it’s a recognition by the sport about the accomplishments achieved as a team, “said Virjee. “Although I’m recognized, I appreciate the support and cooperation that I got from the association as well as the players. It couldn’t have been done without the players.”
Virjee grew up in Nairobi, Kenya and was first exposed to Field Hockey through his school, and then later joined a local club. Virjee’s passion for field hockey remained when he immigrated to Vancouver. He then immediately got involved at the club level and provincial level. It was at that moment that he started taking on a coaching role.
“I got along quite well with the coach who was also coaching the national junior team, and he asked if I would like to help him,” said Virjee. “It just seemed like a natural progression for me that my playing career wasn’t going to take me as far, so I might as well devote myself to coaching where I seem to have a knack for it.”
After working with the junior national team, Virjee was presented with an opportunity to manage the senior team. As the manager, Virjee was part of the first Canadian team to win gold at the Pan American Games, and was part of the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Virjee doubled down on coaching, receiving his coaching credentials from FIH, and dedicated more time coaching at the regional and provincial levels. As a coach for the BC senior women’s team, Virjee won seven straight championships in the eight years he was involved.
His success brought him back to the national stage and he was selected as the head coach for the Men’s National Team. He led that team to the 1998 World Cup (where the team finished a national best eighth place), a gold medal at the 1999 Pan American Games, and its first Olympic Games in 12 years. He also led Canada to its first international victory over Australia to win the Gold Cup in 1999. Virjee continues to make history in 1999 by being named an FIH World Coach. With 171 international matches behind the Team Canada bench, he goes down in history as the winningest coach in program history.
Virjee stepped aside from the team shortly after to work as a head coach for UBC. At UBC, he helped lead the university to seven championships and built a hotbed for Canadian field hockey. After coaching there for 13 years, he then helped build the Polar Bears Field Hockey Club which aims to help youth improve at the sport. The program has since assisted over 150 athletes to USports and NCAA placements.
“We have to teach kids skills at the younger level, if we do that then we will be able to compete with the best countries for years to come,” said Virjee.
Congratulations to Shiaz Virjee on being inducted into the Field Hockey Canada Hall of Fame.