With the 2013 Men’s Pan American Cup looming ahead at the recently completed turf in Brampton, field hockey is certainly on the rise in Ontario. Yet it’s easy to overlook the huge struggle it has been over the past decade to keep the sport we love alive and kicking.
Growing up playing field hockey in Ontario, things seemed quite grand. There were multiple tournaments to be played, many practices of all levels to attend, and national team players who were locals to look up too. But that was back in the grass days, and as multiple turf pitches sprung up on the West Coast of Canada, the Toronto area struggled to even maintain the few there were.
Ontario fell years behind the thriving field hockey population of Vancouver and the rest of British Columbia. Without proper facilities, interest waned, tournaments faded to memory, and the number of locals representing our country dwindled. A proper water-based artificial turf field was needed and it was known. But it never came…
There were the devoted few who stuck it out, just a few small groups here and there who were determined to keep playing. And an even smaller number still who were unwavering in their resolve to bring field hockey back to how it once was in Ontario. It wasn’t an easy fight, or a fair one at that. The huge amount of money needed to construct just a single turf wasn’t available like it was in British Columbia, which had a number of turfs in just a matter of years. It would be years and multiple failed efforts before, finally, there was a glimmer of hope.
More than a decade later, a small group of advocates convinced the City of Brampton to consider an international grade water-based turf at the Cassie Campbell Community Centre. These advocates rallied the entire community from the local clubs to Field Hockey Canada to support the final push for a turf. It worked! With the backing of the City of Brampton, the water-based turf was approved, and there were smiles abound. It was a long hard struggle, but like all good things, it was worth it!
Trials and tribulations though, like to come in droves. And how they’ve come… The two turfs scheduled for construction in the heart of Toronto to be the field hockey site of the 2015 Pan American Games have not been without their own drama. A push was made to classify the currently rarely used site of the upcoming turfs as a heritage site so that they could not be constructed. A petition was circulated to support their claim, and it was taken to the city council… They however underestimated the passion of the field hockey community in Ontario, and the backlash was swift! In just a couple of days, a petition supporting the construction of the turfs garnered nearly half the number of votes than the petition against it in more than 6 months. Support again poured in from all quarters, and the turf construction was comfortably voted in.
It seems almost a dream to think there will soon be 3 international sanctioned water-based pitches in use in Ontario. The two biggest tournaments in the Pan American region will be taking place in Brampton and Toronto, and they will only serve to increase the exposure of the already growing popularity of field hockey in Ontario.
It has been only a few months that the turf has been in use in Brampton, yet things seem to be better already. The tournaments that were a staple of Ontario summer weekends are back, the practices in multitude, and locals seemingly on their way to representing our proud country once again. And with the breaking ground of the new turfs to be constructed at the University of Toronto only weeks away, new peaks are just a matter of time.
To move forward however, we must not forget the past. And the people who fought through all those years when things were at their worst. When their smiling faces are amongst the many cheering for our country at the fast approaching Pan American Cup, it’ll all have been worth it.
This article was originally published by Micah Teixeira in PAHF.