The 2004 Pan American
Cup: a global stage for field hockey
By Matt Larkin
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
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.”