Talk about temperature extremes.
It was borderline freezing at Tamanawis Park in Surrey Tuesday evening (Nov. 28) during a send-off event for Canada’s men’s junior field hockey team.
“It’s in the high-30s there right now with lots of humidity,” reported head coach Geoff Matthews a day before their flight west.
“It’s a bit of a difference in temperature but yeah, it’ll be fun.”
Team Canada’s 18-man roster has 10 B.C.-based players including four from Surrey/White Rock (Satpreet Dhadda, Armaan Bagri, Arjun Cheema, Robin Thind), twin brothers from Abbotsford (Jyoth and Maan Sidhu) and Vancouver-area reps Jude Nicholson, Noah Louie, Kirin Robinson, Hudson Loh).
The U21 squad qualified for the Junior World Cup by earning a silver medal at the Junior PanAm qualifiers in Barbados last April, when Argentina won the final game over Canada’s relatively young team.
The world’s top 16 teams will play in Malaysia in early December including Canada’s Pool C competitors Spain, Korea and India.
“It’s a really, really tough tournament to get into but Canada has been there for the last three,” Matthews said. “This is the fourth one in a row for the junior men’s tournament, quite an achievement.”
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The last Men’s Junior World Cup was played in 2021 when Team Canada placed 13th.
“That might not sound great, but that was our best achievement for a while,” Matthews noted. “This time, ideally the top 12 would be a huge achievement for us. Canada has never finished in the top 12 and we’ve got a pretty tough pool, but we’re going to go and play our best and see if we can compete every match and see where it takes us.”
The junior national team practices at Tamanawis and also at UBC.
“With the juniors this is 50 per cent our home base,” the coach explained, “and we have a lot of athletes here in Surrey so it’s always good to have events here. The community here has always supported us really well and that’s something we look forward to giving back a little bit as well.”
The send-off celebration at Tamanawis Park included speeches, an introduction to players, photo ops and some food in the clubhouse. Surrey councillors Pardeep Kooner and Rob Stutt were there to greet everyone.
A third field for hockey is planned at Tamanawis in order to attract more tournaments to the park in Newton, but details haven’t been confirmed yet.
“For field hockey there’s only really seven turfs in Vancouver,” Matthews noted. “I come from Cape Town and we have 50 field hockey turfs in that city, which is the same size as Vancouver population-wise. So there’s a desperate need for water-based fields here for field hockey. So if the community can do that, they this will just become more of a hockey hub than they already are. This is the only place in Canada that has two turfs back to back that are actively used.”
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Next June, Tamanawis will host the Junior PanAms tournament.
This week, players and family members paid their own way to Malaysia for Team Canada matches that start Dec. 4 against Spain, followed by Korea on Dec. 6 and India on Dec. 9.
Other teams at the Junior World Cup are Argentina, Egypt, Belgium, Australia, France, Netherlands, Chile, Germany, New Zealand, Malaysia, South Africa and Pakistan.
Next year, Matthews said he’s looking forward to coming back to Surrey for the Junior PanAms.
“The last time we were in Canada for a tournament was in 2016 in Toronto,” he explained. “Next year we’ll only lose three athletes from this squad, the two twins (from Abbotsford) and our captain Julius D’Souza, they age-out. But then we’ve got 15 guys on the squad already and reserves who’ve been training with us and a couple of injured players who are missing this tournament who’ll be back, hopefully. The core group will be here next year.”
The Abbotsford brothers, 21, started playing field hockey at a young age.
“Our dad came from Hong Kong and since we were kids, old enough to run around, he put sticks in our hands, and since then it’s been history,” Maan Sidhu explained.
He and Jyoth followed in an older brother’s footsteps.
“They’re really skillful players,” Matthews said. “Jyoth actually has some senior caps already for Canada. He traveled with the senior team to the Commonwealth Games last year, and both are part of our leadership group. They also umpire in their spare time and coach, so not just great field hockey players, just great field hockey people.”
White Rock’s Armaan Bagri was named top goalie of the tournament in Barbados last April.
“That’s a huge achievement, something that exceeded his expectations,” Matthews said. “He brings a really good net presence for us and plays a lot of ice hockey as well, so it’s great to have that Canadian influence there.
“The other Surrey-area players, Robin (Thind) is really young,” he coach added. “He scored four goals on debut in his first ever cup for Canada, so super skillful. The ceiling is really high for him, he just needs some more experience and some more time.
“The other two, just really good team players,” Matthews said of Satpreet Dhadda and Arjun Cheema. “The key for this group, why they’ve been so successful, is everyone knows their roles and brings their best game to the party, knows their weaknesses and also their strengths.”