A North Shore sporting success story more than 50 years in the making is unfolding this week.
The Canadian women’s national field hockey team is taking part in the 2022 FIH World Cup for the first time in 28 years, facing off against the world’s best at the tournament hosted by Spain and the Netherlands. Four of the 18 players are from North Vancouver, and two more are based in West Vancouver. And that is no fluke.
The West Vancouver Field Hockey Club was co-founded in 1968 by Dr. Lawrence “Boots” Boothroyd, a surgeon at Lions Gate Hospital, and his friend Hugh Fraser. The story goes that they were passionate sportsman who both ended up with multiple daughters, but back in those days there weren’t many sporting options for girls.
“There was soccer for the boys and then but nothing for the girls,” Boothroyd once reportedly said about the founding of the club. “Hugh and I had both played field hockey at one time so we thought we should give it a whirl.”
They decided to hold a one-day jamboree to see what kind of interest there was, taking out ads in the local newspapers to invite girls to come and try the sport. On the big day they were discouraged to see torrential rain coming down – a familiar sight for anyone who has played sports on the North Shore – but their fears were washed away by a flood of girls who came out despite the downpour. More than 120 girls took part in that first session.
“We were delighted,” said Boothroyd.
From there the club steadily grew into the powerhouse sports organization it is today. With more than 2,500 female and male members, it is the largest field hockey club in North America. And the club is now the de facto home of the national team programs, in part because there is a huge foundation built to support that level of play, but also because the club produces so many elite-level players. Several of those players help form the backbone of the team now competing at the World Cup.
I first met North Van’s Hannah Haughn when she was still in high school at Handsworth. I went out to watch Handsworth play in the North Shore high school field hockey final, and saw Haughn play an excellent game for the Royals. What was so remarkable, however, was that she’d just gotten off a plane from South America where she was playing with the senior national team. She went straight from the airport to Ambleside Park, her first break coming only when she stopped to pick up the banner she helped Handsworth win.
Since then she’s become a cornerstone of the national program on the field and off. She’s coming up on 200 caps for the national team, and has been a leader in the fight to get the players the funding they need to train together and compete at events around the world. And her mere presence on the 2022 World Cup roster is inspiring. Haughn suffered a devastated right knee injury in March of 2021, tearing her ACL and meniscus and straining her LCL and MCL. The knee was entirely wrecked, but she came all the way back, and was there in the starting lineup as Canada opened the World Cup against host Spain on Canada Day.
Fellow North Vancouver native Karli Johansen, who has more than 150 caps, had the honour of scoring Canada’s first World Cup goal since 1994, the team’s lone tally in a 4-1 loss to Spain.
And there are two North Van young guns on the team as well. Audrey Sawers made her ninth appearance for Canada in the World Cup opener, and Grace Delmotte made her first ever appearance for the senior national team in the game against Spain.
In their second game of the tournament, the Canadians lost a heartbreaker 3-2 on a late goal from Korea. Canada has one more game in opening round play, July 7, 9 a.m. Vancouver time, against Argentina.
The game won’t get the same national attention that the Canadian soccer or hockey teams do, but you can bet there will be a little army of North Shore field hockey fanatics tuning in to the livestream to watch the team compete. The fact that they’ll also be watching several of their friends and neighbours and teammates play on the sport’s biggest stage is a testament to the power of the field hockey program built on the North Shore and the people who keep it running and growing.
Andy Prest is the sports and features editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly. email@example.com
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