My name is Nancy Mollenhauer (Charlton) and I was a member of the Canadian women’s field hockey team from 1982-88.
I will say up front that it is with some apprehension, but mostly excitement that I sit down to put this letter together. I have thought about doing so many times in the past but with the Canadian women’s recent loss of Own the Podium funding and the unfortunate results from the recent World League 2, now seems the perfect time to put some thoughts down on paper.
After I retired and got on with ‘life after hockey’, I will admit that I did not follow the team too closely. While still interested in their progress, life does move forward and get busy.
Graduating from UVIC, teaching in Victoria, married with two daughters, I was still playing hockey in women’s league and coaching both at school and in the community so wasn’t completely removed from the sport. When Victoria was chosen to host one of the 2008 Olympic Qualifying tournaments I was asked to be involved. I felt this was too good of an opportunity to pass up: world-class hockey in our own backyard. I thoroughly enjoyed volunteering at the qualifier. It was a terrific experience to reconnect with hockey friends and alumni.
Fast forward to January 2016 and I am still teaching, coaching and involved in hockey. Through a series of fortunate circumstances I was asked to consider being tour manager for the Women’s National Team travelling to New Zealand to take part in the Hawke’s Bay International Field Hockey Festival.
Six of the eight teams competing were headed to Rio for the Summer Olympic Games so this opportunity for Canada was simply fantastic. The team had been quietly, but steadily improving their world ranking and this festival offered the perfect chance to see how we would stack up against some of the best the game of hockey has to offer.
The girls performed above anyone’s expectations and it showed that their training as a centralized group in Vancouver was paying off. I had watched the team play and earn a bronze medal in Toronto at the Pan-Am Games in August 2015. This same group of athletes between Pan Am Games and New Zealand were, to put it simply, a completely different looking team.
Not to take away anything from their bronze medal performance but six months can make a big difference and I was blown away by how well they performed in New Zealand. They had turned a corner and were able to run and play with some of top teams in the world – it was a very exciting time!
I also joined the team on a tour to the US in August 2016 and again this past January to Gold Coast, Australia. As a group, both on and off the field, the girls continued to improve, gain confidence and were in a great space as they prepared for World League 2, taking place early April in West Vancouver. Early results indicated the team was on pace to achieve their goal – qualify for World League 3 and continue preparation to qualify for the next World Cup and then the big dance – Tokyo 2020.
A devastating loss in the quarterfinals to Belarus saw those hopes quickly dashed and the reality slowly sank in that future qualification for World Cup and Olympic Games was in serious jeopardy.
So here is the ‘rub.’
Federal funding is attached to medal results and consequently the Canadian women have lost their Own the Podium funding to the tune of $300,000. The team now finds itself in a ‘pay-to-play’ situation and none of us alumni need to be reminded of the time commitment both on and off the field necessary to train and compete at the International level.
We are all part of Team Canada. As alumni, we have all donned the red and white to stand and represent this country we all call home. Regardless of our own personal experience as a National Team member, it is the shared memories of having the honour of stepping onto the pitch to represent Canada. The team needs our support today, so I am encouraging each and everyone of us to consider donating to a fundraising initiative(s) the team has put in place so they can continue to pursue the dream of representing and competing in Tokyo 2020.
It seems more than appropriate this being Canada’s 150th birthday and we speak of traditions and those things that bind us together. We are all part of this field hockey ‘sisterhood’ so let’s do our best to come together and support ‘our’ team.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this missive. I realize we all have our own charities of choice, maybe this year we all choose to give what we can to help support a program that gave us a shared life experience.
Here’s to staying in touch and continuing this Women’s National TeamAlumni connection. In an effort to reach out to as many alumni as possible please feel free to forward this letter and request/opportunity to any field hockey alumni you remain connected with.
Yours In Sport,
Nancy Mollenhauer (Charlton)