By Morissa Lindsay
Barbados is set to host the premier junior hockey tournament in the Western Hemisphere as the Barbados Hockey Federation (BHF) prepares to welcome several international countries from April 10th to 18th, for the Under-21 Junior Pan American Hockey Championships.
During a press briefing held this morning at the Barbados Olympic Association, the Pan American Hockey Federation’s event coordinator for the Junior Pan American Championships, Laura Macchiotti said they are hoping to have a good tournament and stressed on the importance of staging the competition, which is a qualifier for International Hockey Federation (IHF) Junior World Cup.
Accompanied by the BHF honourary secretary, Kofi Hinds, Macchiotti explained that the tournament is a continental qualifier for the IHF Junior World Cup that caters only to Under-21 players. There are eight competing teams, each for both men and women, and the top two finishers in each category will automatically qualify.
The first and second places in the men will advance with one reserve spot available. However, on the women’s side it is different because only the top three will go through and there are no reserve spots up for grabs.
Since 2004 when Barbados hosted the first Pan American Women’s Cup, the country has not hosted a major international event of this magnitude and therefore Macchiotti would like to see great support for the upcoming tournament which will be played at the National Hockey Centre in Wildey.
“We need to have a top tournament as a World Cup qualifier. We will have teams that have been champions of that World Cup like Argentina, we will have the USA, and we will have Canada. So that is very important. This is all young people,” she said.
The countries represented at this tournament are former champions Argentina, the United States of America, Canada, Chile, Guyana, Uruguay, Paraguay and Guatemala who are first timers.
Hinds shared similar sentiments as Macchiotti regarding the event, as he too stressed the need to have support especially from the Barbadian public as the Under-21s coached by Cher King (women) and Anthony Trotman (men) seek to qualify.
In terms of what spectators can expect during the nine days of competition, Hind noted that the hockey centre will be transformed into a Caribbean type sporting atmosphere as the organisers cater for 400 persons for each match.
“So if you are familiar with what we do for the festival, we’re going to take that and take it a little bit further. So we hope to have a distinctly Caribbean sporting atmosphere at the venue in Wildey. In recent years we haven’t been utilising those spaces because we’ve been working on the pavilion on the Eastern side.
“Now we hope to have that complete and to transform the venue into a more of a sports village type, where we invite the public in. Like I said, we hope to have some attractions for the kids, jumping tents and so on. And of course establishing a food course, you can have vendors, music. It should be a fantastic time for all involved.
“We’re going to basically have the facility partitioned where we have an area for teams, sponsors and the general public. We’re also hoping to get some additional seating because we know that teams like Argentina, USA, Canada and Chile usually travel with their supporters as well. So we want to be sure that once you come there, you’re comfortable. You have access to things you want, you are entertained and we want to be able to provide a good show,” Hinds explained.
In addition he said, “So as part of the planning, we hope to be able to invite primary schools, secondary schools and kids to come out and support along with their parents and friends. As Laura said, we are inviting you all out to participate and be a big part of this tournament because we think it’s important for the sport in general.
And of course Laura would have mentioned the return of Guyana. We had a recent series in December where they came and part of that was preparation for this tournament. So we will have some Caribbean representation here as well. We’re still in the early planning stages, but we hope to have events for the kids, we hope to have some attractions for the parents and adults as well.”
While Hinds did not give a figure in terms of the overall cost for the tournament, he did state that the BHF has reached out to corporate Barbados and hoped for more support as he thanked the Barbados Olympic Association and the National Sports Council for their support.
Barbados last hosted the Junior Pan American Hockey Tournament in 1996, the same year the National Hockey Centre was opened.
The eyes of the world will be on Barbados because the full event will be streamed live throughout each match day. Regarding the cost of tickets, Hind said that season tickets will be available at a reasonable cost but the prices have not yet been finalised. However, school children will be granted free access.
Hinds also noted that because of the lighting situation, the matches will be wrapped up by a decent time. However, he assured that the facility will remain open to spectators who wish to stay and interact.
In terms of what this tournament means for Barbados hockey, Hinds said, “We’re really hoping that the tournament will give a boost to hockey locally. And of course on our side we would like to expose our officials, our administrators, our peers, and our fans back to the international scene and give them that exposure that will help them build their own hockey careers.”