PHOTO: Scott Tupper (far right) and his Schaerweijde Hockey teammates celebrate a victory in Dutch hockey league play.
After a much deserved break following the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Canada’s men’s field hockey players are back competing. But with the Men’s National Program still in stand-down mode until its carding camp in October, many players have taken to the field with their club teams locally and overseas.
Headlining the group that is back on the field is Canadian captain Scott Tupper, who has returned to Europe to play for Schaerweijde in Utrecht, Holland.
“I love playing hockey abroad,” says Tupper, who has also previously played club hockey Belgium and Germany. “It gives you an opportunity to play high level hockey week in, week out.”
Schaerweijde has played in the Hoofdklasse, Netherland’s top division, for the past five seasons, but was relegated at the end of last season. In the Overgangsklasse, the second division of Dutch hockey, Tupper is competing against Men’s National Team teammate Floris van Son, who plays for HIC.
On a team of young players looking to return to the top flight, Tupper, who has now competed at two Olympic Games, adds a veteran presence.
“I was excited to be part of a team and club that has a clear mission for the year, and I look forward to the pressure of having to perform and win every Sunday.
Also playing overseas in Germany, is veteran Canadian forward Keegan Pereira.
Pereira joined Uhlenhorst Mülheim, a team in the the German first division for similar reasons as Tupper.
“I wanted to be put in a high pressure match every weekend and the level of this league allows that,” he says. “It’s like playing an international match every weekend. I’m hoping my experience at Mülheim makes me a better player and that carries over when I play for Canada.”
Canadian midfielder Gabriel Ho-Garcia recently returned from New Zealand, where he played in the New Zealand Hockey League for Midlands and came back with a League title to his name.
Also overseas, is veteran Richard Hildreth who is playing in Great Britain.
Additionally, as is the norm at this time of year, a group of athletes have gone back to playing locally.
Seniors Gordon Johnston, Matthew Sarmento, Paul Wharton and a handful of Junior National athletes including Balraj Panesar and Floyd Mascarenhas have returned to school to play for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds, which competes in the Vancouver Men’s Premiere League, facing the likes of the University of Victoria, and club teams from Surrey, Vancouver, and Burnaby, all of which are replete with National Team players.
Additionally, Canada’s Under-21 begin a series of games against local competition – including the Senior Development Squad – this week as they prepare for the 2016 Junior World Cup in December. The series precedes the Carding Camp, which will be followed by Junior World Cup team selection.