May 20, 2004  
Volume 98, Issue 01  

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SPORTS

The 2004 Pan American Cup: a global stage for field hockey

By Matt Larkin
Gazette Staff

Ian Van Den Hurk/Gazette
FIELD OF DREAMS. Chile and Brazil square off in round robin action in the Pan American Cup at TD Waterhouse.

Any London sports fan feeling deprived of action this summer no longer needs to twiddle his thumbs. An international event of high magnitude is currently taking place extremely close to home.

In conjunction with Western’s own TD Waterhouse Stadium, London is now playing host to the second bi-annual Pan American Cup of men’s field hockey. The twelve-nation tournament began this past Wednesday and continues until this Sunday.

The field of competitors was reduced to 11 teams due to defending champion Cuba’s withdrawal, which was tied to Visa problems. The remaining group, however, still boasts powerful field hockey nations such as Argentina (the Pan American entry for this summer’s Olympics) and Canada, which gained the second seed in the tournament after Cuba’s exit.

The tournament, considered the third-largest event in all of international field hockey behind the Olympics and the World Cup, consists of a five-game round robin played within two separate pools followed by an elimination round. Pool A includes top-ranked Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Puerto Rico, the United States, and Venezuela; Pool B’s entries are Canada, Trinidad & Tobago, the Netherlands-Antilles, Mexico, and Uruguay.

The tournament final is at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, with the victor earning the right to compete at the 2006 World Cup of Field Hockey in Germany.

Canada, which reached the finals at the 2002 Pan American Cup in Cuba, appears poised for another successful run at this year’s event. On May 16, the Canadian team won each of its first three contests by a combined margin of 17-1. As Canadian team member Jeewanjot Bath explained, failure to take the title at this year’s tournament would force the team to enter a qualifying round for the 2006 World Cup. After losing to Cuba in the 2002 final, Canada entered an Olympic qualifying tournament only to lose to Argentina.

“We definitely want to win and get to the World Cup,” Bath said. “We don’t really want to go to the qualifier and have what happened last time.”

The tournament is known for a high standard of organization and play. Tournament director of sponsorship, marketing and promotion Imtiaz Hashmani likened the event to an Olympic-calibre production.

“On the technical side, everything has been just great,” Hashmani said. “The facilities are Olympic-style. Opening ceremonies were great — an Olympic-like celebration with dancing.”

Though intitial attendance at the London venue for the tournament has been low, Hashmani explains that the goal for the event was geared more towards familiarizing Canadians with the sport than filling the stands.

“We expected a little more in terms of attendance, but there wasn’t an intention to have a commercial audience,” Hashmani noted. “A lot of the crowd here is from Toronto. We invited lots of schools to the opening ceremonies. We want to build [support for international field hockey] at the grassroots level.”

“This tournament is really important because field hockey isn’t really big in Canada,” Bath added. “A lot of kids come out and see field hockey for the first time. A tournament like this brings young kids into the game.”

Making up a large percentage of the tournament’s attendants this year are members of a coaching program run by Field Hockey Canada in conjunction with the Pan American Hockey Federation. The course, headed by former Argentinian women’s coach Rudolfo Mendoza, trains prospective coaches at various levels of play. Coaches can study at the development level, which introduces young athletes to the game, or the high-performance level, which focuses on provincial and national coaching.

Sherry Doiron, a development coach for Field Hockey Canada, discussed the large opportunity the Pan American Cup presents for coaches all over North America.

“[The tournament is] a fantastic opportunity to bring international hockey here,” Dorion said. “It’s important coaching-wise to see elite hockey like this. We get to see the skill levels needed for top-level performance, and it’s not every day that we have it in our backyard.”

 

 

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