When it comes to hockey, the results are what matter. But there’s no doubt, there’s more to the 2017 Gryphon Hockey World League Round 2 than just hockey for Canada’s women’s field hockey team.
Playing at home is not something Canada’s women get to do very often. And when they do, it’s a big deal.
Canada’s women won a bronze medal when playing on home soil in Toronto at the 2015 Pan American Games. But the Women’s National Team hasn’t played a competition of this size and scope in British Columbia since hosting an Olympic qualifier in Victoria in 2008.
“I think it’s a really great opportunity to bring the community together,” says team captain Kate Wright (Gillis), who is the only player on Canada’s World League 2 roster who was on the 2008 team in Victoria. “When we were playing in Victoria, there was so much home support, such a big crowd, everyone cheering, which really impacted me.”
Outside of the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games, Wright (Gillis) hasn’t had many opportunities to relive that experience.
Canada’s women are often travelling around the world, meaning extended family and friends rarely have the chance to see them play. And pro-Canadian crowds are rare.
“It’s really an amazing opportunity to showcase how hard we work and thank them for their support and I think it will be great for them to see how far we’ve come. We’re playing some really good hockey right now and it should be really exciting.”
But when it comes down to it, any competition, especially one of this magnitude is about sport. And for Canada’s women, Gryphon Hockey World League Round 2 is about one thing: winning.
“We’re definitely focused on the World Cup, but it’s just a process,” says veteran midfielder Brienne Stairs. “Our next big focus is definitely World League 2, coming top two, making it to World League 3, and then qualifying for the World Cup.”
Stairs, who played at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, nearby her hometown of Kitchener, knows the impact a home event can have.
Canada’s bronze medal at the tournament was the first Pan Am Games medal for the Women’s National Team in 16 years.
“I think we’re really confident going in to World League 2,” adds Stairs. “Especially because it’s on our home turf and we’ll have lots of fans out supporting, and we’ve been training really hard preparing.”
Home crowd, support, and comfort is one thing. But preparation, is another. And Canada’s women are prepared.
After winning that bronze medal in Toronto, Canada’s women have been on the rise and last year defeated top-10 ranked team Korea at the 2016 Hawke’s Bay Cup in New Zealand.
“I think a big win against Korea gives us the confidence, that we know we can beat those top ten teams,” Stairs says. “This is another opportunity. India is an awesome team who went to the last Olympics, that will be a great challenge for us.”
Canada’s women, ranked 18th in the world, recently defeated India (12th) in pre-tournament competition. It’s yet another stepping stone, leading to what they hope is a successful home tournament in West Vancouver.
And while the results on the field are the priority, Wright (Gillis) – who played a part in inspiring current National Team member Hannah Haughn at that 2008 tournament – knows there is much more that comes with this competition.
And she and her Canadian teammates are looking to make the most of it.
“It’s such a privilege to play at home,” Wright (Gillis) says. “I think having it in West Van, which is such a big field hockey hub, same as Victoria, it’s going to be such an exciting time for girls of all ages to come and watch their National Team play on home soil and hopefully inspire them.”
Canada opens World League Round 2 on Saturday, April 1st at 4:30pm PT/7:30pm ET against Mexico.
Gryphon Hockey World League Round 2 in West Vancouver has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada. Additionally, we would like to thank the Province of British Columbia and viaSport for their generous support of this project.
The West Vancouver Field Hockey Club is also proud partner of this event.