42 teams for hockey festival
There was no hockey action on the field but there was still plenty of energy and enthusiasm as the 26th Banks International Hockey Festival officially got under way at the Banks Sports Club at Wildey yesterday afternoon.
The 42 teams from Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Canada, England and Switzerland assembled for a colourful parade and a lively cultural presentation that energized the hundreds of participants and fans.
The week-long party got well and truly under way following opening remarks from Barbados Hockey Federation (BHF) president, George Bennett; Group Marketing Manager at Banks, Bernard Frost; and Hugh Foster, acting on behalf of the Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy.
Festival chairman David Rouse dedicated this year’s tournament to the memory of one of the originators of the tournament, Mike Owen, who passed away in July.
Bennett said the BHF was pleased with the longevity of the annual event, which began back in 1986.
“We’re extremely proud and grateful that we’ve been able to sustain this event for so many years,” Bennett said. “We’re committed to ensuring its survival despite the many challenges.”
For the first time since 1996, the tournament will not be played on the Hockey Centre’s artificial surface, due to its deteriorating condition. Instead, matches will be played at Kensington Oval, Police Sports Club, Weymouth, and Banks Sports Club, Wildey.
“We ask you to be patient with us as we seek to acquire a new hockey turf,” Bennett added.
“But I’m sure you’ll find our beautiful Kensington Oval to be a wonderful temporary replacement.”
Bennett also stressed that the festival was more than just the hockey.
“We’ve always focused and succeeded at merging social events with competitive hockey to allow our visitors to have the maximum opportunity to forge lasting relationships and experience some of our Barbadian hospitality,” he said.
Banks, the lifelong sponsor of the event, has helped in that regard and Frost said his company was happy with being such a durable partner.
“Banks is celebrating 50 years in two weeks’ time and this festival is celebrating 26 years, all in partnership with Banks, so it’s more than half of our lifetime,” Frost said, pledging his company’s support for future years.
Among the feature matches on today’s opening day are defending men’s champions Dominion against Queen’s Park Cricket Club of Trinidad and Tobago at 3 p.m. and 2010 women’s queens, A Badd Connection, against Maple at 11 a.m., both at Kensington.