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Nine foreign teams for fest

Craig Cozier

Nine foreign teams for fest

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Even in its 26th year, the Banks International Hockey Festival is reaching new places.
The 2011 edition, which launches on Sunday, welcomes its first-ever competitors from Switzerland, the Flying Hoppers, who will be competing as one of eight teams in the men’s veterans division.
The Hoppers, from Horgen just outside Zurich, are one of nine foreign teams among the 44 set to compete when the matches touch off on Monday morning.
The event officially opens on Sunday afternoon with the opening ceremony and blast-off fete at the sponsor’s ground at Banks in Wildey.
Also flying in for the festival are Team Hoff, a mixed team out of Surrey in England, as well as a number of perennial visitors from Trinidad and Tobago and the United States.
Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force (TTDF) are the festival’s most prolific tourists and they are back for their 21st visit seeking their first silverware in men’s and veterans’ play.
Queen’s Park Cricket Club return for the first time since 1999 with a 36-member party confident of breaking a barren period for foreign teams dating back to 2003 when Disillusioned Aardvarks from Britain won the men’s veterans event.
Big Apple women, out of New York, have come close on a few occasions and they will be expected to fly the foreign flag strongly once again.
But the powerful Bajan contingent will again be favoured for success, with Dominion men, A Badd Connection women and Rockets mixed all chasing three-peats. Mount Gay Maple are the defending champions in the men’s veterans.
The 2011 festival is the first since the death last July of one of the founding members of the event, Mike Owen.
And there will be a number of contenders for the Mike Owen Spirit of the Festival Award, which will be bestowed upon the team which displays the type of sportsmanship and amity that helped Owen touch so many in the hockey fraternity.
There will be no festival hockey this year on the deteriorating AstroTurf surface at the National Hockey Centre at Wildey, but Kensington Oval takes over as a high-class festival headquarters. Police, Spartan and Banks will be the other venues hosting matches.
Kensington was the original festival home for a decade after the inaugural year in 1986 and will host a special finals day on August 27, with the women’s and men’s showdowns under lights.
As always, the on-field contests are only part of the festival package and there are social events on each night. The finale promises to be a special occasion, with the Festival Committee teaming up with Brewster’s Road to host a blockbuster final party, also at Kensington.