We start with our review of 2016 with a look at the year that was for Canada’s senior men’s field hockey team. With the Olympics in August and a busy build-up to the Games, the year was as memorable as any in recent history.
Later this week, stay tuned for Part 2 of the Men’s National Team review, a video in which four members of the team talk about the best parts of the year.
Also coming this week, Parts 1 and 2 of the Women’s National Team Year-in-Review, and we count down the Top Canadian field hockey moments of 2016.
2016 was extra special for the Men’s National Program. Having qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games the year prior, this year was all about the Olympics, from the lead-up, to team selection, and competition.
The year began in South Africa for Canada’s men. With the Olympic Games on the horizon in August, the entire squad went on a training tour to kick off the year.
The trip saw the team on the field twice a day, including a handful of exhibition matches against fellow Olympic-bound teams Spain, Ireland, and Belgium. The team also faced host nation South Africa in front of the excited home fans.
With the majority of the time spent on field, the trip to South Africa gave the coaching staff an early opportunity to assess the team, and it gave the athletes plenty of opportunity to impress with Olympic team selection just a few months away.
After returning to Canada in February, Canada’s men buckled down in their Daily Training Environment.
The men spent their time on field training at West Vancouver’s Rutledge Field. It was a tough stretch for the men, who were on the field through the cold and rainy Canadian winter. But despite the weather woes, the men were able to work on the little things, allowing the coaches to bring the team closer together philosophically and tactically.
The end of the training block brought on a difficult decision: team selection for the 2016 Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia. The Azlan Shah Cup was one of only two competitions the men had scheduled before Olympic team selection, making the roster of 18 players an important one to crack.
After team selection, in April, Canada’s men headed to Ipoh, Malaysia for the annual Azlan Shah Cup tournament.
With 2016 being an Olympic year, the teams at the 25th edition of the tournament were top-notch. The competition was a perfect place for the Canadians to continue their Olympic preparation.
Canada faced Olympic teams New Zealand, India, and Australia, and also took on Pakistan and host Malaysia. The Canadians finished in 6th place with 1 win, 4 losses, and 2 draws. The tournament was one of two final opportunities for the Canadian men to make a mark before Olympic team selection.
The final opportunity to impress came in June when the Canadian men went to Europe to play a series of exhibition games against Ireland and Spain, both of whom were also headed to the Summer Olympics.
Canada’s performance throughout the trip – and certainly in the final matches against each team, both of which ended in draws – led to increased confidence heading into the Olympics.
With just over a month to go, Canada’s Olympic men’s field hockey team for Rio 2016 was announced in a special way at the top of Cypress Mountain and amidst the Olympic rings from the Vancouver 2010 Games.
Men’s National Team alumni and two-time Olympian Paul “Bubli” Chohan was joined by Olympian and bronze medalist Brent Hayden and a large group of family and friends of the 16 men who were chosen to represent Canada in Rio. The Olympic 16 were presented with their official Team Canada jackets, and their road to Rio was almost complete.
Prior to leaving for Brazil, the Canadian men had a couple more items to tend to.
The team’s last game action came at the beginning of July when the team hosted the United States for four games in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Not only were the four games a good way to head into the Olympics – Canada swept the U.S., with four straight wins – but it was a nice way for the men to be “sent off” to Rio, with family and friends cheering them on in the series of home games.
After the games against the U.S. and like they did in 2008 prior to the Olympic Games in China, the team travelled to Vancouver Island for a short training camp at Shawnigan Lake School. In addition to some final training sessions and time for the Olympic sixteen to bond as a group, the team hosted two clinics with young hockey players.
With a new format and budding confidence, Canada went into the Olympics looking to make history and become the first Canadian men’s field hockey team to make an Olympic quarterfinal match, and finish higher than 10th.
After a tough first three matches against Germany, Argentina, and Holland, Canada played its best two games of the Olympics against Ireland India.
The match against Ireland was a see-saw battle, which saw Canada improving throughout the match. If not for early penalty corner goals from Ireland, Canada would have been happy with their effort in the 4-2 loss.
Despite losing its first four games, Canada continued to improve and the final game of the tournament against Number 5 ranked India was their best.
In a game that meant a lot to the Indians in terms of implications for the remainder of the tournament, Canada pushed them to the edge, drawing 2-2 and finishing the Olympics strong.
After the Olympic Games, Canada’s men were rewarded with an improved world ranking to 12th place.