Field Hockey Canada > Young ‘Bou Spotlight: Brendan Guraliuk
On the Road to Tokyo, we will be spotlighting young blood on the Men’s National Team and their journeys from the junior to senior level. As baby Red Caribou, their stories are a signal of what hard work and perseverance can lead to, and can be a source of inspiration to us all on our own pathways.

Youth Olympian and youngest Caribou eyes senior international competition, Tokyo and beyond

Growing up in Tsawwassen, BC, a small town about 40 minutes away from Vancouver, Brendan Guraliuk joined the Men’s National Team as the youngest player in the summer of 2018.

At the age of five, Guraliuk began his field hockey journey with the Delta Falcons Field Hockey Club. Following in his mother’s footsteps — a path which saw her play for the Vancouver Hawks — he quickly realized his love for the sport and the potential early on. More than 15 years later, he’s already been recognized by the Delta Sports Hall of Fame and was key on the Canadian U18 team that qualified for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games.

With just under ten international matches to his name, he describes his journey as a ‘little bit surprising’ while reflecting on his success in the junior program, as well as the challenges that followed.

“When I first started with the [senior] team, they were quite competent and I quickly realized that I don’t have as much time on the ball,” Guraliuk described. “Everyone can tap and it’s a big step from the junior side that you’re used to. Having to adjust myself to the speed of the game and working on my decision-making — knowing what I wanted to do with the ball before passing it off — were really important.”

As a current UBC student and Thunderbirds midfielder, the past few years have been Guraliuk’s ‘learning years.’ Since his debut, there’s an eagerness to learn from veteran players on the team, knowing that his best moments are still ahead.

“After I got my first cap in 2018 in a mini-series against China, I played well enough to get my second one and thought ‘crap, I’ve got a chance,’” he explained. “I was up there with everybody else and there was a chance to make the Tokyo squad. That’s something to look forward to.”

“I’ve got nothing to lose so I play free and play hard.”

Despite being away from the senior program on a few occasions, Guraliuk has established himself as a recurring player since December 2019, and was named to both Europe Tour rosters this year. Playing against top teams like Belgium and Germany has been crucial in familiarizing himself with the next level.

He said, “Playing against those top teams, they’re especially strong with their presses, so the biggest thing in midfield is that, when I do receive a pass, I make sure I won’t lose it. Make sure I receive it, get out and get away. Especially since you’re not going to have too much time against those teams.”

Brendan Guraliuk playing against Germany on 05.23.21 (Photos: Lars Kopp Photosport)

As a young ‘Bou, it can be a nerve-wracking experience training alongside veteran players, but Guraliuk likes to think of it as the opposite. In fact, he describes it as ‘freeing’ with fewer expectations and more room to explore.

“I’d say I have that freedom,” Guraliuk said. “I’ve got a little bit more leeway considering I haven’t been there yet. I’ve got nothing to lose so I play free and play hard that way, and there might not be as much pressure mentally on me as guys with hundreds of caps.”

Still, Guraliuk has expectations for himself in possibly inspiring the next generation of young field hockey players in the community. Growing up, he looked up to Graeme Carswell, who played on the U21 national team and was also a Tsawwassen native. Though Carswell’s career was tragically cut short, the experience he had at a young age is what drives Guraliuk to do more.

With a Youth Olympics under his belt at the age of 21, there’s much to anticipate, including the possibility of playing abroad and making a name for himself. Guraliuk was also recently named to the 18-person roster heading to Chile for the Junior Pan American Championship this August.

“I’ve realized that nothing comes easy at that international level, so to make that men’s national team squad in the future, I’ve got to keep pushing and be mentally ready for everything.

“I have a chance to represent Canada not only at the youth level, but at the senior Olympic Games as well. I’m happy and humbled by it as well, since it’s a little kid’s dream to wake up and realize that one day, I might be able to make it to the Olympics.”

Brendan Guraliuk