Camila Caram (Chile) and Scott Tupper (Canada)

This year is all set to be another exciting year for hockey across the PAHF region. There are opportunities for the national teams to excel at all levels of competition: from the USA women and Trinidad and Tobago men who will be facing the top indoor teams in the world as they head to Berlin for the Indoor Hockey World Cup at the start of February; to the young stars of the game who will be competing at the Youth Pan American Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico, in March; to the developing teams from Central America and the Caribbean who have their multi-sport Games in July.

And, of course, 2018 is the year of the “Big One”. The men’s and women’s Hockey World Cups will be taking place in India and England respectively, and the PAHF is well represented at both events, with Argentina and USA women flying the flag in London and Canada and Argentina chasing medals in Bhubaneswar.

Despite a heavy workload with club and country, three of the PAHF hockey stars took time out of their schedule to take a look back at 2017 and an insight into their hopes and dreams for the next 12 months. All the interviewees were voted into the 2017 Pan American Elite Teams.

Camila Caram is a star of the Chile women’s team. This year was her third consecutive time as a member of the prestigious Pan American Elite Team. As captain of the national team, she led her team to silver in the Pan American Cup and to a first appearance at the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Johannesburg, South Africa. The team has also moved up the world rankings to an all-time high of 15th in the world.

“2017 was a very good year for me personally and for our team,” says Caram. “At first we had a really tough Hockey World League Two, where there were five teams – India, Belarus, Canada, Uruguay and us – that were fighting for two places in the Hockey World League Semi-Finals. Achieving second place was very gratifying. Later in the year, we went to Lancaster, USA, to play the Pan American Cup, in which we got second place, a historical result for Chile. Personally, I got chosen as the captain of Team Chile and that was a great honor! And of course, being selected in the Elite Team was also a great way to end the year. Being selected for the third time in a row was even more amazing.”

Chile went to the Hockey World League Semi-Finals as the lowest ranked side but they took big ambitions with them. So, while Camile was pleased with her team’s performance over the season, she does have some regrets: “Not being able to qualify to the London World Cup 2018 was definitely a low point, because that was one of our main goals for 2017. We knew it was going to be tough, but we had all our hopes pinned on qualifying for the Hockey World Cup and we didn't quite make it.”

In the event, Chile finished ninth, after claiming the scalp of the hosts and higher-ranked team, South Africa, in the pool games and beating European contenders Poland in the play-off for ninth place. Indicating just how close Chile came to achieving their dream, India and Ireland finished seventh and eighth respectively and have both qualified for the World Cup. Caram’s disappointment at being so tantalizingly near to qualification is understandable.

But, in a season that was marked by excellent performances against higher-ranked opponents, the stand out match for the Chile forward was the semi-final of the Pan American Cup where Chile beat USA 4-3, with the winning goal scored by Denise Krimerman in the final minute of the game.

For USA men’s Pat Harris, this was a year that saw the striker enjoy success with the national team as well as a successful debut year in the European Hockey League with German giants Mannheimer.

“From a national team perspective, it was great to have some successful results at both the Hockey World League Round Two in Tacarigua, Trinidad & Tobago, and the Pan American Cup at home in Lancaster. In addition, being named to the PAHF Elite team was a nice individual accolade that came as a result of my team’s efforts and performances.

“From a personal perspective, my year was highlighted by a second-place finish in the German indoor competition and winning the German Championship.” 

In a year when both the USA men’s and women’s teams have had highs and lows – including two semi-final losses for the men at the HWL Round Two and the Pan American Cup, and a semi-final loss for the women at the Pan American Cup – Harris cited the women’s magnificent win at the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in Johannesburg as the standout performance of the year.

For one of the Pan American Elite team, 2017 was all about the Hockey World League Semi-Finals in London. Scott Tupper was part of the Canada team that booked its place in the Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup, Bhubaneswar 2018, and two performances from that event stand out for the veteran superstar.

“Finishing in the top five in London was the high point of the year. To finish off that tournament with a win over India, and knowing that our ticket to the World Cup was officially booked was a big accomplishment for our group. 

“We got momentum from the start with a 6-0 win over Pakistan. That match jumps off the page. A score line like that against a traditional heavy weight in world hockey is unique for Canada, and set us off on the right foot for the rest of that tournament.”

The results in London were made sweeter after, earlier in the season, Canada had failed to win the Hockey World League Round Two event, losing out to Japan in a fiercely competitive final. For Tupper that had been a hard lesson as the team had just been unable close the match and take first spot.

The coming year is a big one for Tupper and his team. The Commonwealth Games takes place in Australia in April and then, in November, it is the Big One, the World Cup. Tupper’s hope is that Canada keep doing what they are proving very good at – competing with the higher ranked teams and causing some upsets in the process.

And so the scene is set for another year of great international hockey action. With teams from the PAHF region competing in events that range from blue riband global events to regional competitions; and with officials also representing PAHF at all levels, we are a continent that is punching above its weight in the exciting game of field hockey.