Field Hockey Canada > Sara McManus retires and leaves a legacy in Canadian field hockey

Sara McManus retires and leaves a legacy in Canadian field hockey

All photos provided by Yan Huckendubler

April 16, 2024 | Field Hockey Canada |

Sara McManus retires as the second-most capped woman in Canadian hockey.

After an incredible 15-year career representing Canada on the international stage, Tsawwassen native, Sara McManus bids farewell to the Women’s National Team, leaving behind a legacy of longevity. With 216 international appearances under her belt, McManus is the second most capped woman in Canadian hockey history.

Reflecting on her decision to retire, McManus recalls moments where the idea had crossed her mind, particularly with the 2019 Olympic Qualifiers after the 2020 Olympic quad ended. However, her commitment to the team and the chance to compete in the 2022 World Cup as well as the following Olympics kept her in the game. Now, as she takes this next step, McManus is content with her decision and looks forward to new beginnings.

For McManus, her career is more than the numbers or on-field success, of which she has plenty. Her resume boasts appearances in three Pan American Cups, four Pan American Games, three Commonwealth Games, and the 2022 Hockey World Cup in Spain, among many other global tournament appearances. McManus’ first official cap took place in Vancouver. She said she played the vast majority of her matches out of country and it was special to have her first cap right where she grew up. McManus went on to become a several-time Pan American all-star and has represented Canada for almost 15 years as a stalwart of the Canadian backfield.

“It’s crazy to reflect on it. You go through so much of your career feeling like a new player on the team, it really snuck up on me,” she said. “Looking back on the places I’ve been, and some of the amazing games I’ve played in, and the amazing teammates I’ve had, it’s really all about the people I went through it with. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the opportunities I’ve had with these people.”

It’s the camaraderie shared with teammates and the guidance of coaches that she cherishes the most. Mentored by early high-performance coaches Louis Mendonca and Paul Bundy, McManus credits them for setting a solid foundation for her career. She also draws inspiration from players like Sam Smith and Steph Jameson, whose excellence motivated her to strive for greatness. She said Steph Andrews also was an inspiration, as a women in a coaching role for her on the national team.

“At every stage, there have been people to look up to and learn from. That’s been the biggest thing for me,” she said. “I didn’t know what meant to be on a national team at the start so the guidance at the time was really important.”

When reflecting on her career, McManus identified the Toronto Pan American Games as a special moment for her and the team. Among many international accolades, medalling on home soil holds a special part in her memory.

“It was my first multisport medal and to do it on home turf, was extra special. I can still remember it. We scored a classic Canadian-style goal against Chile in the bronze medal game,” she said. “It was a special moment that I’ll remember.” She adds that winning the 2019 Pan Am semifinals against USA in Lima was also a career-vindicating moment for her and many of her teammates, even if they didn’t capitalize on the gold that year.

Among her contemporaries, McManus identifies Kate Wright and Natalie Sourisseau for their exemplary leadership, acknowledging the lessons she learned from them. The 2019 season stands out as one of the most rewarding for McManus, despite its heartbreaking end in the Olympic qualifier loss to Ireland. She fondly remembers the team’s unity and the formidable defensive core that characterized that period.

“During that time, we formed a core defensive group — with Karli [Johansen], Dani [Hennig], Shanlee [Johnston], Amanda [Woodcroft] and Kaitlyn [Williams] in goal. We were so tightly knit, and we played so well as a group.”

In recent years, McManus has taken on the role of mentoring the next generation of Canadian field hockey stars, instilling in them the values she was taught as a young player on the national team. She also understands that the game has changed significantly between when she started and today. She retires as a leader of this current group, and highlights communication on and off field as the highest importance.

“I always just tell my teammates, ‘just keep talking.’ If you don’t know what to say, just say what you are doing at that moment. It keeps us in the game, it keeps the energy going and it gives everyone around you more confidence,” McManus said. “It’s a simple answer to any question, but communication is the most important thing on the field.”

Throughout her tenure, McManus embraced a culture of continuous learning, constantly refining her skills and leadership. She said that recently, under the guidance of coaches like Danny Kerry and Kate Richardson-Walsh, she was continuing her journey of learning and improvement both on and off the field. As she hangs up her stick for the Women’s National Team, McManus leaves behind am array of accomplishments matched by very few in Canadian hockey history.

She said her teammates tried softly to keep her around for the next build, but knew ultimately it was her time. McManus said they understand and were supportive of her decision, and for her she believes it’s the right time.

“It’s such a great group and everyone has been so supportive,” she said. “Even though I know it’s the right decision, it was still a very a hard decision.”