This article was originally published on the Field Hockey Canada website.
The Canadian Men’s and Women’s Field Hockey Teams were able to experience a perk of hosting a home games over the past week while in Toronto.
Both teams were in Toronto at the new Pan Am Fields at the University of Toronto to test out the new pitch that will be used when they compete at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto this July
The Women’s National Team hosted Ireland in a four-game test series, during which both teams won twice, and the men had three days dedicated to training.
Early reviews of the Pan Am Fields and the downtown Toronto venue are positive.
“To be right here in the middle of Toronto, with all these historic buildings around us, it’s just an awesome venue,” says Men’s National Team veteran Taylor Curran. “It’s going to be really exciting.”
For Curran, who is from North Vancouver, British Columbia, making the Pan Am Games roster and playing in Toronto come July would be novel experience. But for a handful of National Team athletes, including Waterloo, Ontario’s Amanda Woodcroft, playing in Toronto over the last week was homecoming of sorts.
“That was the first time my family and friends saw me play (with the National Team),” she says. “It was amazing, I loved having them there.”
Home field advantage is not something Canada has been able to experience much of over the last few years. For many of the women, like it was for Woodcroft, playing in the test matches against Ireland was the first time they had played an international match in Canada.
“Definitely playing in Toronto, there was an extra little bit that pushed you to show what you have,” explains Woodcroft, who attended the University of Toronto and played on the very site for the Varsity Blues. “It was kind of like we were home again.”
But not for long.
Both the Men’s and Women’s National Teams are off to Argentina (June 3-14) and Spain (June 10-21) respectively to compete in the World League Semifinals, a 2016 Olympic qualifying event.
And as much as their time in Toronto was useful for familiarization of the Pan Am Fields, on which they will find themselves later this summer, it was also a final bout of preparation before a busy summer with high stakes.
“We build up for two years, training every day to play in these big games,” adds Curran, who is a part of the Men’s National Team that is will be competing in Argentina starting this Wednesday. “We’re all really excited to play in games that matter.”
The stakes are high, but after their stop in Toronto, the Canadians are ready. And when they step back into Canada after World League, they will either have qualified for the Olympics or know that the next time they play at the Pan Am Fields, they will have the home crowd behind them in their efforts to get to Rio.
Click here for the Men’s National Team World League Semifinals schedule and results.
Click here for the Women’s National Team World League Semifinals schedule and results.