In 1964, the Men’s National Field Hockey Team qualified for the Olympic Games for the first time in program history. A blend of athletes from across the country met on the plane and arrived in Tokyo for a ground-breaking moment and their international playing debut. 57 years later, the Men’s National Team will land in the Japanese capital once again for an Olympic experience unlike any other.
The 1964 team notched one win, a 2-1 victory over Hong Kong, and finished T13. More important than any scoreboard accolades, the team had established a culture of pushing and driving towards the world’s biggest competitions – a culture that still pulses through the program today.
Since that landmark moment in 1964, the Men’s National Team have, on average, qualified for every second Summer Games, including the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. The home-country heroes had a fairy-tale start to the event, taking down arch-rival Argentina in the first game of the tournament. The high didn’t last, however, as Canada was knocked out in the pool stages, eventually finishing 10th.
The 1976 Olympic team on home soil in Montreal
Team Canada qualified for both the 1984 Los Angeles Games and 1988 Seoul Olympic Games finishing 10th and 11th respectively. The team then experienced a decade-long drought missing out on both Games in the 1990s. In 1999, however, the team fought back with a vengeance defeating Argentina during the 1999 Pan American Games Gold Medal match on home soil, in Winnipeg, to punch their ticket to the Sydney Games. It would mark the team’s third Pan American gold medal.
In 2007, the team traveled to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the next edition of the Pan American Games. Team Canada once again dug deep and pulled out an epic shootout victory against Argentina, securing a spot at the 2008 Beijing Games. The late heroics to qualify for major championships has, since 1999, become a staple in Red Caribou lineage.
There may be new faces, but the culture and legacy are woven into the team. The late-match tactics continued at the 2015 World League Semifinals in Buenos Aires, Argentina as Canada defeated New Zealand in a 14-round shootout to come fourth at the tournament and advance to the Rio Games. Team Canada was again ousted in the group stage, leaving the returning athletes hungry for another crack in 2020.
As if three consecutive one-goal decisions to qualify wasn’t enough, there came a fourth. The drama that unfolded on home soil in West Vancouver in October 2019 was movie–worthy.
In a two-game Olympic qualifier against Ireland, Canada was down three goals after a 5-3 defeat in the opening match. Down late in the second game, the team capitalized on a penalty stroke, forcing a shootout. After several suspenseful rounds, the men, again, earned their Olympic berth in dramatic, sudden-death fashion.
The current program, centralized in Vancouver, BC, is now training and preparing for the Tokyo Games. The squad consists of roughly 25-30 players with 16 to be selected for the Olympic Roster, predicted to be announced in the last week of June.
As the days go by and the Games inches closer, there’s much anticipation of what will be a return to the birthplace of the Men’s National Team international career, as well as a unique shared experience for all at home, cheering the Red Caribou on.
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