At Home and Abroad
The game of field hockey is played widely across the world. Field hockey is, in fact, the second largest team sport in the world played in over 100 countries. In Canada it is a popular family orientated sport, played mainly in clubs by both men and women. The game is also played in many schools and offers a lifetime of both sporting and social opportunities for players, officials and administrators alike.
In British Columbia, field hockey is played by over 8,000 athletes and assisted by numerous volunteers, making BC the most active field hockey province in Canada. Both the men’s and women’s National teams and the men’s and women’s National coaches are based in British Columbia. The National team training base is in Vancouver and the Province of British Columbia is proud that currently over 50% of the Men’s and Women’s National team players hail from BC.
Field Hockey is an eleven aside game played on a pitch 100 yards by 60 yards with a ball which has a 23cm circumference. Each player has a stick with a rounded head to play the ball with and the objective is to score goals by putting the ball in the opposing team’s goal. Sticks are anywhere between 28 inches and 39 inches long and weigh between 340g and 790g. Protective equipment is worn in the form of full body armour, pads, gloves, kickers and a helmet for the goal keepers and shin guards and mouth guards for outfield players.
The rules of field hockey are very similar to the rules of soccer except that players must use their sticks instead of their feet to play the ball. There are 11 players on a team made up of a goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and forwards. The only player on the field who is allowed to use their feet and hands as well as their stick is the goalkeeper. The key rule differential between field hockey and soccer lies with there being no offside rule in field hockey allowing for an extremely fast, potentially high scoring and exciting game.
Despite the name “field” hockey, the game has recently developed (since the mid 1980’s) from a grass pitch based sport into a sport played on artificial surfaces. In BC, the outdoor game is played on both grass and artificial surfaces. Not merely an outdoor sport, field hockey is also played as an indoor sport (six aside) on gymnasium floors that allow for an even faster game.
The History of the Game
The origins of the game can be traced back to the earliest civilizations of the world, but the modern game of field hockey was developed in the British Isles. The modern game was started in England in the mid 1800’s and the first formal field hockey club the ‘Blackheath Football and Hockey Club’ was formed in 1861.
Many rules and concepts changed during the early years as the game spread throughout the British Empire. From these origins sprung not only the formidable field hockey nations of India, Pakistan and Australia but the development of the game in over 100 countries. As a result, field hockey became the second largest team sport in the world, after soccer.
Field hockey has been a men’s Olympic sport since the 1908 Olympic Games in London. The women’s game is a recent addition, first recognized at the Moscow Olympics in 1980. Field Hockey stages both a men’s and women’s World Cup as well as competitions at other International Games including the Commonwealth Games.
The History of Field Hockey in Canada
While the game developed across the globe in the late 1800’s, so too did field hockey in Canada. Both men’s and women’s field hockey was established and flourishing in British Columbia before the end of the nineteenth century. Records show that as early as 1896, clubs in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island were enjoying regular fixtures. Schools also started playing the game with the earliest record being a match played between a girls and boys team in 1903 at Vancouver High School.
British Columbia today, as it was in those early days, continues to be the major centre for field hockey in Canada; however, that is not to say the game wasn’t being played in other parts of the country. Records show the emergence of clubs in Calgary and the game being played in Toronto, Halifax and Newfoundland in the early 1900’s. Field Hockey is now played and enjoyed right across Canada.
The Game Today
Field hockey in BC is predominantly played within a thriving club structure. A typical club consists of around three to six adult teams, although some will consist of only one team. A lot of clubs will have junior youth sections and provide opportunities at a multitude of differing age and ability levels.
Competitive opportunities lie in the form of senior and junior leagues that are tiered into divisions that reflect each level of play. Annual club, provincial and invitational tournaments complement league play and provide an extended opportunity to enjoy the game.
Field Hockey is also played at schools level during the fall and the school season culminates in the annual AA and AAA high schools championships.
Acknowledgement: John McBryde ‘A Bipartite Development of Hockey’ 1986