North Vancouver field hockey players are asking for donations to ensure they can attend July's FIH Hockey Women's World Cup in Terrassa, Spain, after qualifying for the first time in 28 years.
The North Shore has always had a strong connection to field hockey, with a number of players on the national team hailing from North Vancouver or West Vancouver. The current roster includes Hannah Haughn, Karli Johansen, Grace Delmotte, Audrey Sawers, Bronwyn Bird, and Chloe Walton, all from North Vancouver.
Despite that, there's still a struggle for funding, and while they have seen some success in recent years, most notably a silver medal at the 2019 Pan American Games and their bronze medal showing at the 2022 Pan Am Cup that earned them their World Cup berth, they are still unsure if they will be able to attend the World Cup.
“We've had financial issues, for pretty much as long as I can remember,” said Haughn, a longtime member of Canada's national team. “This is frustrating, because for us, as athletes, the onus is on us to fundraise and make sure that we can go to these tournaments, which takes a lot of time and energy away from training.”
In previous years while competing in tournaments, some members of the team were unable to participate due to financial constraints, while others have made big sacrifices for the sport they love. This pay-to-play model is something that they have been struggling to overcome, as they have not always been able to field their best teams.
In 2018, they relocated their entire program to Belgium in order to play for the local semi-professional clubs that offer stipends. This allowed them to gain experience playing other teams and to train unhindered for the qualifier for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“Then coming up to the qualifying tournament, we found out that we didn't have the money to even go, to a tournament that we've been training for, for over a year. We ended up doing a big crowdfunding campaign and raised about $80,000 from our respective communities,” said Haughn. She added that it was a huge motivator to have a team picked based exclusively on merit and not just who could afford to go. That tournament ended in a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to Ireland that cost them their Olympic berth.
Attempting to train for this World Cup qualification has brought on new challenges. With most of the team in Vancouver and a new head coach, they had been making progress in their training, but then the Omicron variant of COVID-19 broke out, and the tough winter weather also made it difficult to prepare. “We came down to the tournament not knowing how we would do because we hadn't trained properly in a month, so to go down there concerned, and to qualify, that's just a huge accomplishment,” said Haughn.
Johansen, another longtime member of the Canadian field hockey team, said it was hard to put into words what qualifying for the World Cup meant.
“It just felt like, finally, things are paying off, we're just excited to be rewarded for all the work that we've put in,” she said.
While the team is in the process of planning a few events to help drum up support for the World Cup tournament, nothing is yet confirmed, and they are still looking for donations. Visit the team's website for more information about their fundraising efforts.