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The Top Field Hockey Moments of 2019 + What to Watch for in 2020
2019 was full of big moments for our sport and growth on the international stage. The inaugural FIH Pro League season served up round after round of hockey at the highest level, with matches all over the world. Players and coaches stepped up to give back to their communities in significant ways. The EuroHockey Championship served as an Olympic qualifier, which upped the stakes for the already ultra-competitive bid to be crowned European champs. Highlight reel goals were scored and monumental comebacks were made.
We asked Team STX to share their top hockey moments — as fans and players — for the year and what they’re looking forward to in 2020. Here’s what they had to say:
Top Hockey Moments of 2019:
1. The inaugural season of the FIH Pro League launches in January.
For the first time, the world’s top men’s and women’s teams traveled around the globe for a six-month season. Tokyo 2020 and the chance to be the first champion of the Pro League made the stakes that much higher for the inaugural season.
The frequency of games and length of the season allowed hockey fans around the world to enjoy an elevated level of play and paved the way for a consistent platform to grow the profile of the sport internationally.
Ultimately, the Australian men’s team and Netherlands women’s team walked away with top honors and a guaranteed spot in the Olympic qualifiers, along with the other top three teams.
2. FIH Olympic qualifiers set the stage for Tokyo 2020.
Arguably the most exciting moments of 2019 took place during the Olympic qualifying matches. For Rio alum and gold medalist Shona McCallin, the surprising twists and late-match drama were the most memorable. From India defeating the U.S. after an amazing two-day comeback, to China beating Belgium after being 2-0 with less than five minutes on the clock, to the Irish and Canadian match-up coming down to a shoot-out, every game was action-packed with hard-to-predict results.
3. The hockey community unites to give back.
With the new league came a new opportunity to grow the game and raise up the next generation of players.
Teams across the league celebrated Olympic Day by holding various camps and clinics worldwide to share the game with youth players and encourage their Olympic dreams. The FIH also began a new initiative “Sticks for the World,” calling on the global hockey community to donate equipment with the objective of reaching 101,000 sticks by 2020 — and many players and teams rose to the challenge.
4. The Netherlands women’s team reigns supreme and the Belgian men’s team raises its 2017 runner-up status to win the EuroHockey Championship title for guaranteed placement in the 2020 Olympics.
On the women's side, the Netherlands took home the gold, while Germany and Spain walked away with second- and third-place honors respectively. STX athlete Nike Lorenz finished the tournament with an impressive three goals as a defender, helping to claim the silver medal for Germany. While the Netherlands were a favorite to win the gold, Spain emerged as a dark horse in the top three, entering the tournament ranked 7th and upsetting England to secure a place on the podium.
On the men’s side, it was anyone's guess who would be crowned the champion, with the Netherlands out to defend their 2017 title. In the end, Belgium, former runner-up, finished in first place, with Spain coming in second and the Netherlands coming in third.
5. STX athletes dominate the Pro League highlight reels.
6. After a lengthy recovery, Shona McCallin returns to the pitch in a Pro League match-up against Japan.
In February of 2018, GB midfielder Shona McCallin was playing in Argentina and gearing up for the World Cup when a blow from another player’s shoulder to the side of her head ruled her out of the Commonwealth Games and ultimately affected her World Cup eligibility. The prognosis was concussion, also known as MTB-I. Though not ideal, McCallin made sure her time off the pitch was well-spent, raising awareness and understanding around concussion as the “invisible injury.”
After more than a year of rehab, McCallin returned to the pitch in 2019 to make her international comeback and is hitting the ground running for season 2 of the Pro League.
Read more about her recovery in Shona McCallin: Getting My Head Back in the Game.
What to Watch for in 2020:
1. Year 2 of the FIH Pro League
After the success of Year 1, it's hard not to be excited for what's to come in Year 2. Who will take home the trophy?
This year, the Australian men’s team and the Netherlands women’s team will look to defend their titles, as the other teams vie for the chance to be the new champions and establish their dominance going into the Olympics. With the addition of India’s men’s team and 16 of 18 teams in the league set to appear at the Olympics, you haven’t seen hockey on this level before.
2. Tokyo 2020
It’s been a long four years since Rio 2016. Players and fans alike are patiently waiting for the return of field hockey at the Summer Olympics, anxious to see who will take home the gold.
The GB women’s team will look to defend its title after winning gold in 2016 over the Netherlands and Germany. But after taking home first place in the Pro League and EuroHockey Championships, the Netherlands team is building some real momentum.
Meanwhile, Australia and Belgium will look to dethrone the Argentinian men's squad as reigning gold medalists after an impressive showing for both teams in the Pro League.
3. 2020 NCAA Field Hockey Championships
Will UNC make history with their third consecutive title? Or will a new team rise to the challenge and defeat the two-time defending champs? There’s only one way to find out. Mark your calendars for November 20, 2020 to see who takes home the NCAA Division 1 women's field hockey title.
One of our personal favorite memories from this year? This interview where we put Netherlands teammates Jeroen Hertzberger and Thijs van Dam in the hot seat and tested their knowledge of one another. Check out the must-watch video here.