There is no precedent for this type of qualifier in international field hockey history. Two games over a weekend, aggregate winner moves on to the 2020 Olympic Games. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, these matches will be taking place on home soil in West Vancouver, BC.
The Men’s National Team earned their spot in the Olympic Qualifier series by winning the Hockey Series Finals in Kuala Lumpur in April. They defeated host-nation Malaysia in a thrilling championship game securing their spot in the final stage. Their opponent, Ireland booked their spot in the qualifiers by coming second at their respective Hockey Series Final tournament in France in June.
Canada is a veteran side coming off 2016 Olympic and 2018 FIH World Cup appearances. Their recent success at the FIH Hockey Series and the 2019 Pan American Games has put them on track to peak at home at the end of October.
According to Head Coach Paul Bundy, the team will spend the next month addressing gaps and weaknesses they’ve identified to make them as prepared as possible.
“We’re going to focus on us,” he said. “We’re very excited to play these games at home and feel we can use the energy and the crowd to our advantage.”
Scott Tupper, captain of Team Canada, and most recently, the national flag bearer at the 2019 Pan American Games, said this type of opportunity doesn’t come around often and that Team Canada is going to be ready to seize it.
“We’re going to have our work cut for us with Ireland. I imagine these will be very tight and intense games,” Tupper said. “With this unique format, every goal and every moment is so important.”
The venue, Rutledge Field in West Vancouver, is a world class turf in a truly remarkable setting. Shadowed by the Coast Mountains and looking out over Howe Sound, Rutledge Field is a breathtaking location for the upcoming drama.
According to Tupper, the venue’s intimate atmosphere will add a sense of excitement and fitting for the situation.
“It will probably be a little more like a club atmosphere, where you have fans right tight to the pitch,” he said. “They’re almost right beside you when you are taking a sideline free-hit. It will be a really good atmosphere and enjoyable to play in.”
Both Ireland and Canada took part in the Rio Games in 2016. Now, only one of them is going back to the big stage. The Olympic hockey competition is the one of the most significant tournaments in the global field hockey community and an opportunity to represent Canada at the Olympics is something that both Tupper and Bundy strive for when leading this Canadian team.
“This is why we play,” Bundy continued. “We have an Olympic legacy and we can’t wait to take this opportunity to continue it.”
Canada hasn’t qualified for back-to-back Olympic Games since 1984 and 1988. For Tupper, a chance to get back to the sport’s biggest stage would mean a lot to him and his teammates.
“The Olympics has the special cache to it. To be able to get back right away would be very special for us,” he said. “It would mean the world to our team and we’re super hopeful we can do it.”
“The venue, Rutledge Field in West Vancouver, is a world class turf in a truly remarkable setting. Shadowed by the Coast Mountains and looking out over Howe Sound, Rutledge Field is a breathtaking location for the upcoming drama.”