By Noelle Smith
With the Indoor Pan American Cup hockey tournament set to bully off on Monday at the Cliff Anderson Sports hall, Canada’s national hockey teams plan not only to defend the titles they won in 2014 in Uruguay but also to secure spots for the 2018 World Cup since the male and female team winners will automatically qualify for the World Cup.
The indoor tournament will see seven female and six male teams competing.
“There’s one spot to go to the World Cup so everybody will be vying for that one spot so we are here to compete and get that one spot,” said Louis Mendonca, the female team’s coach.
The male’s team manager Vernon Grattan-King shared the same sentiments: “The main reason we are here is to win the spot to the World Cup. Our focus for this competition is to get that one spot.”
Canada’s male and female hockey teams are the favourites as well as the defending champions having won the respective male and female titles at the 2014 tournament in Uruguay.
In the male final in Uruguay Canada defeated the United States 4-2 2ith Guyana placing third and Argentina, fourth while in the women’s final Canada defeated Argentina 3-1 with the United States of America third and hosts Uruguay, fourth.
This time around in order to retain their title, the Canadian men’s team will have to get past Argentina, Barbados, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago and the home team.
The women will have to better Argentina, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, USA and also the home team.
Stabroek News caught up with the Canadian Teams at one of their training sessions yesterday and the teams looked confident and ready to defend their titles.
The common concern highlighted by both male and female reigning champions is that they are going into a major tournament as the Pan American Cup without having played much indoor competitions.
Currently in Canada, it is outdoor season so preparations for the indoor version of the game was a bit of a challenge for the teams.
The transition from indoor to outdoor hockey is something both teams will have to get over in their quest to the World Cup.
“The guys haven’t had much games because right now is outdoor season. They have been able to practice but not play,” Grattan King said.
The first few games will come as a test for them having not being able to play as a team for much time ahead of the tournament.
There is much anticipation for the crowd that is usually gathered at local hockey tournaments, coupled with the talent and skills of the Guyanese men, the visitors are expecting the host team to play well in the tournament.
“The atmosphere here, the fact that people come out to support hockey here in Guyana, we know Guyana will be a tough task to go against,” said Vernon Dratton- King.
Neither team expects an easy walk through despite their rankings going into the tournament. The male team manager pointed out that they are also expecting challenges from Trinidad and Tobago and Argentina.
“No team is being overlooked. We all came here to win the tournament and get the main prize. We are all here to go to the World Cup so every team will come out to play their best games and on the day it’s possible that things may not go well,” Mendonca said.
“There are three or four teams who may be tough competition, but having said that we are not going to overlooking any team. Guyana, Trinidad or Barbados can also put us in knock out positions,” he added.
Team Captain Alison Lee, said that she was hopeful that she can take her team to winning their spot in the World Cup.
“I’m expecting to be a good leader and help the team through. Having a lot of young players, it is important to help them to be included and help them to perform in the new environment.
“Just like everyone who came here, we came with the plan to win. We all want that World Cup spot that is available. We are very excited to be here to play internationally,” said Ken Pereira, Canada’s male captain. Canada’s male team will play their first match on Monday against Mexico while the female team will take on Barbados.