Field hockey looks to grow in Alberta

Field hockey may be one of the most played sports around the world but there are only about 1,000 players in Alberta.

Field hockey may be one of the most played sports around the world but there are only about 1,000 players in Alberta.

By hosting “try it for free” clinics around the province, the Alberta Field Hockey Association hopes to improve on those numbers.

On Saturday, a clinic was held in Red Deer for the first time at Hunting Hills High School.

About 15 young players got the feel of the curved stick, had a few laughs and learned about the non-contact sport.

Burgundy Biletski, Alberta’s field hockey association executive director, said field hockey is not overly popular in Alberta but with the increased exposure from these events interest in the sport is picking up.

Currently there are youth and adult leagues in Calgary and Edmonton. It is also played in Didsbury.

She believes there is a market for all ages in Red Deer.

“I think it would be a great to introduce the sport to Red Deer,” said Biletski. “If we had the three centres playing, there would be the potential or tournaments and crossovers. I think (Red Deer) would be a great area to develop as we continue to go through the regions.”

Biletski said compared to ice hockey, field hockey is fairly cheap.

To play field hockey, players need a stick, shin pads and mouth guard.

Field hockey can either be played indoor or outdoors on various surfaces. The 70-minute match with two 35-minute halves is played with 11 players aside in outdoor field hockey and six players when the game is played inside.

In the Olympics, the non-contact sport is played with 11 players.

Players use a stick that has a curved side and a flat side. Only the flat side can be used to play the ball.

The association would like to start a U14 league this year but if there isn’t enough interest they will shoot for next spring.

The next “try it for free” event is tentatively scheduled for April 29 at the high school.

“It’s a very technical sport,” said Biletski. “It takes quite awhile to master but it’s a great challenge, great team sport and lots of fun.”

Biletski played in high school, university and with the Canadian indoor national team.

“It’s a great sport to get into and it’s a sport for life,” she said.

“You can play starting from age four and on. We have people who are in their 60s and 70s playing.”

To find out more about field hockey in Alberta visit www.cometryfieldhockey.com or www.fieldhockey.ab.ca

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com