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Masters of the game get another shot at glory

February 11, 2019

The Masters Indoor World Cup is taking place in Hong Kong in mid-February (14-17 February). The event is another demonstration of the life-long appeal that hockey holds for so many participants, with players continuing to play at the highest level well into their 50s and 60s.

As the masters hockey scene, indoor and outdoor, continues to grow, more than 25 teams from nine countries will be taking part across three age groups in Hong Kong – 40+, 45+ and 50+ – for both male and female teams.

It is a historic occasion because for the first time the Masters Indoor World Cup is being held under the joint banner of the International Masters Hockey Association (IMHA) and the WMH (World Masters Hockey) – a collaborative move that has been some time coming to fruition.

Competing nations include Australia, Canada, England, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and USA.

When it comes to longevity within the game, a player who has withstood the test of time is Canada’s Kenny Pereira.

An international for Canada at both the outdoor and indoor version of the game, Pereira has more than 400 caps for his country. He represented Canada in the inaugural Indoor World Cup in 2003 and, until the past couple of years, has played at just about every major tournament at which Canada has participated. Now he is one of the drivers behind the Canadian 45+ team’s participation at the Masters Indoor World Cup, although the team is not planning on doing it the easy way. 

They are making things extra tough for themselves by competing in the 40+ age group, meaning that all of the players are giving their opponents five years and, for some of the players it is even more years, as Pereira’s team mate John de Souza explains.

“I am over 50, and we have four athletes that are doing the same. This is going to be a massive disadvantage but we knew what we were signing up for.  When we decided to do this we made a commitment to each other that we would train hard and be the best that we could be.  

“To date, we have been pretty good and have motivated each other to get into the gym. We have done what we can at practice to get up to speed with the feel and pace of the game. We had a festival weekend against the USA and that was great preparation. When all else fails we will be turning to the ageless wonder Ken Pereira to bail us out where ever he can.”

So just why does Pereiraand the other Masters athletes keep doing it? He concedes that, as the players age, so the commitment to training and competing gets tougher. There are family and work demands to juggle – things that were just not so pressing when the players were in their 20s and early 30s.

But, somethings are worth making the extra effort for.

“Coming from Canada, you don’t get to play in major events too often,” he explains. “We always struggle to qualify, funding is always an issue, so when we do get there we definitely have to enjoy it and experience it but also know what we’re there for and that’s to compete and to do as best as Canada can do.”

For people who have not seen a Masters event, there is the potential to dismiss the action as less intense than its regular international counterpart. Nothing could be further from the truth. Once on the field of play, the action is fierce and hugely competitive and both de Souza and Pereira are incredibly proud to be pulling on the maple leaf and belting out the national anthem.

“It is always an honour to wear the Canadian colours and represent your country,” says de Souza. “I have been blessed to have had that honour as a player and coach in this great sport of hockey.  I love the challenge of playing against the best in the world and nothing makes me prouder than seeing our teams do well on the world stage.”

Pereira agrees: “Yeah, I always get excited when putting on the maple leaf, no matter if it’s indoor, outdoor or for my first Masters event. I have pulled on the jersey more than 400 times and every time it feels great. I cherish every moment I get to represent Canada.”

There is also the social factor. One of the wonderful things about the age-group events is the fact that many of the players will be familiar faces for those taking part. Just as 10-15 years ago, the players were doing battle for their country as full-blown internationals, now they are competing with the same players again – same high standard, possibly slightly slower speed of movement.

“For me, I think if you are having fun, keep doing it,” says de Souza. “That goes for hockey or whatever you enjoy in life. Hockey is also a great way to stay in shape and keep healthy. 

“Specifically talking about indoor hockey, I think it helps that you don't need as many people to get a game going. I also believe that in the outdoor game there is less opportunity to get the ball while in indoor it’s so hard to hide. You are always involved in the game. You are always moving and you really don't have to cover that much space to get from one end to the other.”

“To be honest, I think we just have a lot of fun,” says Pereira. “That’s what has kept my career going, just enjoying the camaraderie, the jokes, the ribbing of one another and the excitement to compete.”

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