With twenty Canadian men set to play seven games in Europe over the next ten days, Canada’s Men’s National Team is in the final stages of paring down its roster before selection for the 2016 Olympic Games.
The Canadian men open the European series with four matches in Ireland, beginning in Belfast on Thursday at 7:00pm local time (11:00am PT/2:00pm ET).
And while the tune-up against Olympic-bound Ireland and the three games against fellow 2016 Olympic competitor Spain to follow are key for Canada’s preparation for the Olympics, the Canadian men on the field are focused on one thing in Europe: selection.
“It’s a new experience,” says forward Devohn Noronha Texeira of the lead-up to the Olympic team being named.
Noronha Texeira is one of eighteen men in Europe vying for a spot at his first Olympic Games. Veterans Scott Tupper and Mark Pearson – the other two players rounding out the European touring team roster – are the only two active Canadian players who have competed at an Olympics (2008 in Beijing).
“I’m sure Mark and Tupper know exactly how to with those emotions and feelings leading into it. This is all a new experience for ninety percent of the team.”
Canada will be taking sixteen players to the Games in August, meaning four of the twenty on the European trip will not make the cut.
That makes for high stakes in Europe, as the matches serve as a last attempt for athletes to sway the coaching staff with their play on the field.
“I think most of the guys are starting to feel the pressure of the Olympics coming up soon,” Texeira adds. “It’s more realistic. It’s more alive and everyone is getting really excited about it.”
The Olympic team is set to be named shortly after the men return from Europe, which a public announcement schedule for the first week of July.
Canada’s newly named Olympic team will then play in a four-game series against the United States at home in Vancouver as part of an Olympic-themed week from July 4-10, which will also include the team announcement and a special Olympic Send-off and Hall of Fame Ceremony gala night.
July’s Olympic week is just part of what lies ahead for the select group of men who earn the honour of representing Canada on the biggest sporting stage the world has to offer.
“It’s the pinnacle of our sport,” Texeira says. “It’s an honour to represent your country and to go to an Olympics and represent your country, I can’t see anything that’s bigger than that.”
But first, there is work that remains for the twenty guys on the ground in Europe, who hope that their Olympic dream is just around the corner.
Follow Canada’s progress in Europe with schedules, results, and recaps here.