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Whistler Field Hockey Club looking to build off a successful first year

Club president Amy McCarthy hopes to introduce Whistler to a new sport
The Whistler Field Hockey Club is heading indoors for winter sessions starting Jan. 9.

When most Canadians hear the word “hockey,” they think of ice skates, frozen lakes, slapshots and Stanley Cups. Amy McCarthy hopes to diversify that perspective—at least in Whistler. 

McCarthy hails from Ireland and grew up playing field hockey at school in her teenage years. When she moved to Whistler, first in 2007 and then more permanently in 2014, she realized that there was nowhere in town for her to play her favourite sport. Eventually, she decided to change that. 

Teaming up with fellow field hockey players Florencia Tomaghelli and Joelle Tiessen, McCarthy founded the Whistler Field Hockey Club (WFHC) in 2021. Together, they aim to introduce more Sea to Sky residents to a different—and global—sport. 

“The ball is round, for a start,” McCarthy said with a laugh. “[Jokes aside], a lot of our players are from Australia, Argentina, the U.K. or Ireland. We have some Canadians as well. Field hockey is broadly known and played around the world.” 

Field hockey traces its roots back to Egypt some 4,000 years ago, with the modern game developing in 19th-century England. Although more commonly known as a women’s sport in Canada and the United States, field hockey is played by both men and women in more than 100 countries, including India, Pakistan and large parts of Europe, Africa and the Commonwealth. A full lineup consists of 11 players, including one goalkeeper, although fledgling organizations like WFHC often play games with just seven athletes per side. 

In their first year running the club, McCarthy and her associates tried to distinguish themselves amidst a diverse menu of competing activities. There’s plenty to do in Whistler throughout the year: skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, swimming, hiking and more. Financial obstacles and a lack of local awareness about field hockey were problematic too, but key sponsors helped things get off the ground. 

“We had a really successful fundraising year as a new club,” McCarthy revealed. “I think we raised almost $16,000 in total.” 

The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation covered the cost of brand-new field hockey goals, while the Whistler Real Estate Association funded two sets of goalkeeper gear—one for kids and another for adults. The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) also provided $3,100 in Community Enrichment Program grant funding that helped WFHC subsidize the cost to operate its sport throughout the year. 

WFHC’s first indoor winter sessions took place at Myrtle Philip Community School last year, attracting a small but committed core of players that also filled out the club’s inaugural outdoor summer sessions at Andrée Vajda Janyk Sports Field in Bayly Park.

In so doing, WFHC has already begun to create a symbiotic relationship with the community it serves. 

“The RMOW and the mayor and council were very excited to see an additional use for the Andrée Janyk Field,” McCarthy said, referring to a facility that in the past has mainly hosted local soccer games. 

McCarthy and her peers were also able to connect with larger, more established clubs this summer, competing in the annual Surrey Sharks 7-a-side Festival and hosting Vancouver’s Jokers Field Hockey Club for two seven-on-seven friendlies. They credit Whistler Brewing Co. for donating team shirts that club members wore to their summer excursions.

Of course, WFHC leadership understands that youth engagement will be vital to their operation’s long-term growth. That’s why they offered kids’ sessions throughout this spring and fall, each concluding with a tournament. About 20 local youth between the ages of seven and 15 showed up, many of whom have parents that once played field hockey. 

McCarthy herself could not attend those events due to scheduling conflicts, but she is hopeful that this year’s kids’ activities will encourage more youth to try field hockey in the near future. 

“It was nice to see some younger kids coming up to learn about a game that they may not have had the opportunity to [learn] otherwise,” she said, adding that the club eventually hopes to field a team that travels to play opponents across the Lower Mainland. 

For now, WFHC is getting ready to offer its upcoming indoor winter sessions, which will take place on Monday nights from Jan. 9 to April 3. Unlike last year, Spring Creek Community School will be the venue, with both kids and adults welcome. Visit the club’s website for more details.