PHOTO: Canada’s Under-21 men at the 2016 Junior Men’s Pan American Championship in Toronto in May 2016 (By Yan Huckendubler)
When Canada’s junior men’s field hockey team takes to the field at the Junior World Cup in Lucknow, India on Thursday much of Canada will be paying close attention.
It’s no surprise that when a Canadian hockey team is playing, there is a large following. What is likely surprising, however, is that this team isn’t playing ice hockey, and the interest is still there.
That’s due largely in part to Canada’s Under-21 Men’s National Team having a strong Indian-Canadian flavour.
With two athletes on the team – Floyd Mascarenhas and Ganga Singh – having been born in India, and many of the rest the eighteen-man roster having Indian roots, a trip to India is special.
“From what I’ve seen and from talking to other guys who have played there before, it’s definitely something that everyone else has described as something you can’t comprehend,” says Mascarenhas, a defender who moved to Canada when he was two years-old. “It’s nothing like any other place in the world, the scale of hockey there.”
That’s not surprising to 20 year-old Parmeet Gill, who was born in Brampton, Ontario, one of the pockets of Canada that heralds a strong Indian culture.
Gill and Junior World Cup teammate Ganga Singh traveled to India this past summer and spent two months playing and training at a hockey school there.
“Basically, we lived in this academy, we trained twice a day for five days a week, we ate there,” Gill explains. “We basically lived and breathed hockey for two months with those guys, learning Indian hockey.”
It was not a mandatory trip. Rather, something the two Canadians wanted to do because of the importance of their India roots.
Since the trip, Gill has been in Vancouver training with the Junior National Team for the last several months, and while doing so has been playing for the United Brothers club hockey team in Surrey, another city with strong Indian roots.
“The Indo-Canadian atmosphere here is really great as well,” he says. “I feel a community vibe here, which is something I definitely feel in India as well. And I feel at home here and I will definitely feel at home in India as well.”
That’s a common feeling on the Canadian Junior World Cup team and one that will make the upcoming tournament even more meaningful.
“I have family from here and India as well coming out to watch,” Gill says. “So a really strong support system from both countries.”
Canada begins the 2016 Junior World Cup with a match against host India on Thursday, December 8 at 7:00pm local time (5:30am PT/8:30am ET).