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Archive for August 6, 2017

Aug. 6, 2017 — The runaway PAHF

A few months ago, we noted the gulf in scoring as exemplified by scores in the PIAA field hockey tournament. Whereas there were only four known “runaway” scores between 1974 and 2001, there were nine in the 2016 tournament.

Thus far in the Pan American Cup tournaments, including today’s 5-0 win by the U.S. men over Venezuela, six out of 11 games were five-goal runaways.

More than half.

It’s not like 14 summers ago when Pan American teams feasted on the host nation, the Dominican Republic. Indeed, it’s believed that Argentina’s men set an all-time record for an international Test match when they won 30-0 in pool play. The same can be said of the women; Argentina won its match with DR by a score of 25-0.

But there is a persistent problem in the Pan American Hockey Federation: how to encourage the have-nots to improve their game even as the men and women of Argentina are winning World Cups, World Leagues, Champions Trophies, and Olympic gold.

In an era where field hockey is starting to emulate soccer with an emphasis on home matches, the Pan American Hockey Federation is in a difficult situation. It has members spanning half the globe, from Canada down to Chile.

And, the PAHF has its share of what soccer writers like to call “minnows,” those lowly-ranked sides competing with the metaphorical sharks.

On the men’s side, a quarter of the teams ranked 40th or below are in either North or South America. On the women’s side, a third of the teams ranked 40th or worse are in the Pan American Hockey Federation.

What’s going on? A lot of this can be chalked up to the influence of big-money soccer, which is draining resources and players from field hockey.

But I also think there is a severe lack of satellite competition for the likes of Peru and Barbados to be able to work their way into contention for a World Cup or Olympic berth. Aside from the World League, there is a lack of regular competition for the average senior national team player in this hemisphere.

As in the case with nations like the Faroe Islands, Andorra, Samoa, and Guyana in soccer, there is precious little infrastructure, or league play, or athletes willing to put in the time to become a top field hockey player in many PAHF nations.

There are plenty of potential success stories such as Brazil and Chile. There are enough surplus soccer players for these two nations to field some good hockey teams on both the men’s and women’s sides.

Let’s see what happens.