Article contributed by: Grace Li
The 2019 Indoor Invitational kicked off a three-year run for the Women’s Indoor National Team, who came off a fourth-place finish at the 2017 Indoor Pan American Cup.
The tournament, featuring two Canadian teams, Canada Red and Canada White, and challenging nations Kazakhstan and Guyana ran from March 22–24, 2019 at the University of Toronto. As the teams vied for top spots, the three-nation series also gave players a taste of what they might expect in coming years.
Canada Red captain Krissy Wishart, a retired outdoor national team player, found the international competition really exciting for the program’s development.
“[Kazakhstan] is quite skilled,” she said. “They had their team split with younger girls and some older girls who’ve been to many World Cups. Anytime you play against the players like that, you can’t take anything for granted.”
As one of the tournament’s top-leading goal scorers, Wishart noted that everybody was there to prove themselves and capitalize on offensive opportunities. “We’re all at the top of our program so it forces us to put our best foot forward.”
After facing the Kazakh side twice in one day, Canada Red had two wins to propel them to the gold medal match and was set to take on counterpart Canada White, who had just defeated Guyana in an intense semi-final shootout. As Director of Canadian Indoor Hockey Louis Mendonca predicted, the final would be a “boxing match” between players and friends who had trained together for weeks leading up to the series.
Despite a solid performance from the “Team White,” Canada Red came out with a 3-1 win to capture the tournament title.
“I’m grateful for the experience this [series] provided,” Mendonca said. “Canada usually travels outside of the country to play, so it’s really valuable to host. This is all mental stuff that you can’t buy or train in a domestic setting unless you play international teams.”
Not only were 24 Canadian athletes exposed to quality international play, but some younger athletes were also able to get their first true exposure to international competition.
“In the past there was the Pan Am Cup and your team would get together last minute,” Wishart mentioned. “So it’s been awesome that Louis and our coaching staff have recognized that we need to have a system that works over time for player development.”
Although both the men’s and women’s Canadian national indoor teams failed to qualify for the 2018 Indoor World Cup in Germany, Mendonca hopes to use the International Invitational and the upcoming Pan Am Cup to fuel the group’s 2022 prospects. The goal is to remain competitive, despite conflicting schedules and fast-approaching summer field hockey season.
“We have senior athletes but also many university athletes, so finding time to train is always difficult,” he said. “But we’re looking to run camps during the summer and then plan a trip abroad before heading to Pennsylvania next March.”
“I’ve worked with both indoor and outdoor [field hockey] for a long time and…I preach that sport is the most important thing. The sport we love—we need to grow it.”