Justin Demers plays the ball for Brandon during Saturday's mixed field hockey match at the Crocus Plains astroturf field. (BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN)
The 1997 Canada Summer Games helped provide a temporary boost for the sport of field hockey in Brandon when an artificial turf field was built at Crocus Plains high school.
However, when the event returns to the Wheat City in 2017, that pitch will sit idle as field hockey is no longer part of the Summer Games.
It’s a situation that has hurt the sport across the country as registration numbers have dwindled, much to the chagrin of Brandon Field Hockey Club head coach Gillian Richards.
"It is definitely a shame," said Richards, whose club ran a seven-team tournament in Brandon on Saturday. "Going out of the Canada Games was a negative ... One of the reasons is this gender equity thing. And also for sports to be in the Canada Games, they have to prove that they are run all across the country and I don’t think field hockey quite managed it and somebody bumped them out."
While they are small in numbers, the three Brandon mixed teams fared well on the weekend against clubs from Winnipeg and Regina, as well an all-boys Souris squad. In their first real tournament action of the season, Brandon’s 14-and-over team posted a 2-1 record while Brandon’s ‘A’ team in the under-14 division posted a 1-0-1 record.
After spending the first couple of months of the season practising and holding informal scrimmages, the Brandon club was happy to have the opportunity to test its skills against unfamiliar opponents.
"It’s just nice to get in competition against other teams and other players," Richards said. "And actually, our players did pretty well. The results speak for themselves. They were tight games all around."
The Brandon club had 21 of its 23 players take part in the tournament, which was designed to help raise the profile of the sport in Westman.
"We are always looking for new players," Richard said.
The Brandon club plans to play exhibition games at the Newdale Hutterite Colony and may take part in tournaments in Regina and Edmonton this summer. Club practices and scrimmages are held every Tuesday (7-8 p.m.) and Saturday (3-4 p.m.).
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 12, 2012