With winter all but officially arrived in Canada, the Canadian men’s national field hockey team is getting ready to head to warmer pastures to train for a big year ahead.
New Zealand will play host to the Men’s National Team from December 2nd-15th, when the men beginning training for the 2015 competition schedule, which includes two major competitions, World League and the Pan American Games, both in which Canada has a chance to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Brazil.
“For us that [qualification] process starts now in terms of training,” says Men’s National Team Head Coach Anthony Farry. “Obviously it started a while ago in terms of identifying athletes and opportunities to compete.”
While in New Zealand, the Canadian men will play seven test matches, four of which will be official capped matches versus the New Zealand Blacksticks and three unofficial test matches against New Zealand “A.”
Canada will be first land in Auckland, where they will stay from the 2nd-7th and play three games versus New Zealand “A,” a squad compromised of both top squad and development players.
The Canadian men will then make their way to Nelson from December 8th-10th, where they will twice face the Blacksticks, who are currently ranked sixth in the International Hockey Federation world rankings.
“It’s fantastic for us to be able to get an opportunity to travel to New Zealand and play a team like the Blacksticks,” says Farry.
The winter climate in Vancouver, where the both the Men’s and Women’s National Teams train, is not ideal. Turfs are often frozen, making for dangerous conditions and forcing either canceled or indoor training sessions.
“We can’t rely on indoor training at this stage in advance of such a major competition,” adds Farry. “We’ve got a big year coming up and we need to train accordingly.”
Twenty athletes will be on the trip to New Zealand. The roster, which was announced Monday, consists of a mix of veteran and newcomers to the international scene.
“For us its about finding the best balance in between the tour and World League 2 (in February),” Farry explains. “Obviously you want to have the best team but we’re giving some guys that haven’t had a chance yet. It’s just about having a look at different combinations.”