Jamie Wallace remembers the day he was selected for the Canadian World Cup roster. He didn’t go to class that day, he was anxiously refreshing his email inbox, just waiting for the message saying one way or the other.
“I remember, I was at the pharmacy when the email came in. I was completely ignoring the person I was talking to. Just scrolling through the team list,” Wallace said. When I saw my name on the list, I walked outside and called my grandparents.”
Wallace’s grandparents live in Mississauga and have been number-one fans of Wallace’s field hockey career. They first saw him play at the 2016 Junior Pan Ams in Toronto and ever since, Wallace has made sure to keep them in the loop.
“They were thrilled,” Wallace said. “They researched and looked up what the World Cup is all about and they just said they were so proud.”
The 19-year-old Vancouver resident played his first senior cap in August during the Canadian summer home series against China. Despite his age, Wallace was clear about his goals.
“For me the goal isn’t to play one cap,” Wallace said. “It is to be consistently selected for rosters, it’s to score goals and win games.”
According to veteran midfielder Mark Pearson, Wallace possess the skill and size to be an all-world striker.
“Oh man, I wish I had his size,” Pearson said. “He has a great mentality, he moves really well. I think he’s going to be a special talent.” High praise coming from one of the most experienced players in Canadian hockey history.
Wallace is the youngest player on the current team but represents a movement of youth that features the likes of Brandon Pereira and Balraj Panesar. Moving up a few years, another fresh face on the 2018 World Cup roster is Oliver Scholfield. The 2013 Junior World Cup team member and UBC graduate has been in the national team pipeline for a number of years.
Where Wallace went straight from juniors into the senior ranks, Scholfield battled his way off the development squad and is making good of his opportunity on the national team.
“It’s been a lot of hard work over the past five years,” Scholfield said. “To crack a major tournament, it feels like it really paid off to see my name on that list.” Now for Scholfield, the mentality shifts from trying to make the team to making a difference on the field.
“Our team has a lot of talent and I know we can compete with any team in the world,” he said. “For me, rather than trying to make a team, now I’m focused on performance and contributing to the team.”
Panesar and Pereira were members of the 2016 Junior World Cup team and were selected to their first major games roster in April at the Commonwealth Games. Since then, the two have been staples on Canada’s starting unit.
Balraj Panesar (left), Brandon Pereira (centre) and Oliver Scholfield represent the surging youth movement on the 2018 World Cup roster. Photos: Yan Huckendubler
All year long, Canadian Head Coach Paul Bundy has been bringing extended rosters to events whenever possible. The goal was to give many athletes chances to prove themselves and keep the competition environment as competitive as possible. That strategy has paid off as we can see the younger players that played themselves onto rosters over the past 10 months. For Bundy, the younger players inject new energy into the team and really challenge the older guys for their spots.
“It just shows that our men’s national pool is a bit broader that it has been in the past, but it’s also very competitive,” Bundy said. “It’s nice having guys like Jamie [Wallace] and Oli [Scholfield] pressuring for spots.”
Both Scholfield and Wallace are offensive additions for the world cup; an intentional decision by the coaching staff to add more firepower up front. After a disappointing Commonwealth Games on the offensive side, the staff made moves to bring more goal-scoring prowess to the team.
“It was deliberate moving Jamie from midfield into the striker position,” he said. “he has a unique frame. He’s very dangerous and he makes our defenders uncomfortable in training which was a really good indicator for us.”
After two games at the 2018 World Cup, Canada sits 1-1 with a good chance of advancing into the next round. Although they haven’t filled the net with goals, Wallace has already made an impact, looking threatening when he has the ball in offensive zone.
Watch Canada live on beIN Sports Connect as they take on the host nation India at 5:30am PST (8:30am EST) on Saturday, December 8.