Harbir Sidhu is half a world away at the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China, this week, and the promising national team field hockey player is playing a half-sized version of the game.
The Youth Olympics is using the newly popularized five-versus-five format of field hockey. If anyone stands to benefit from the game, it’s Canadians, who have their own versions of five on five ball hockey and are used to the fast-paced style and open spaces the five-aside format brings.
Fives, as it’s known, runs with three 15-minute periods, three quarters the length of the traditional 60-minute game. Players take shifts, just like in ball hockey or ice hockey.
Sidhu’s job is to score. It’s something he’s good at.
“I love to score and to set plays up so I really enjoy the five-versus-five version,” said Sidhu, a Mount Douglas secondary student. “The field’s only about one third smaller than the usual field, but with five players instead of 11, it opens up a lot of space to move the ball around.”
This year was Sidhu’s first as a regular starter on the Victoria Select men’s team in the long running premier division of the Vancouver Field Hockey League. Despite it being a tough season for the Selects with just two wins in 16 games, it was monumental for Sidhu, who grew up practising on the sidelines while watching uncles and cousins play for the Selects.
“Sidhu has the potential to be a really, really good player,” said Kevin Laidman, head coach of the UVic Vikes men’s team. Sidhu and Claremont’s Michael Brown are the only high schoolers who practised regularly with the Vikes this past season.
“He already stands out at our UVic practices. He’s smaller than the university-age guys, but you can see he stands out as a star already. Whether he’ll be that good for Canada, it’s hard to say,” Laidman said.
Sidhu enjoyed his 17th birthday on Aug. 14, the team’s first day of training in Nanjing. With only nine players representing Team Canada, spots were at a premium for the Youth Olympics.
Sidhu spent the better part of the summer at the University of British Columbia where he’s part of a small group of Victoria players, with cousin Amardeep Sidhu (Mount Douglas) and Brown (Claremont), who train regularly with the national junior program.
Sidhu wasn’t included in Canada’s junior team that qualified for Nanjing at the Pan American tournament earlier this year, but made it onto the Youth Olympic team.
“I had to work hard to get included for China,” Sidhu said.
“Sidhu is very humble, he’s willing to learn, and given his age he’s pretty impressive,” Laidman added.
The Canadian junior field hockey team competes in the Nanjing Youth Olympics from Aug. 17 to 27. Nanjing is the second Youth Olympics.
Victoria Royals’ defenceman Joe Hicketts captained the Canadian ice hockey team at the Youth Winter Olympics in 2012.