The sport of men's field hockey is wildly popular all over the world. In some countries, it rivals soccer in terms of passion and devotion.
But while the women's provincial program is strong, the men's game hasn't caught on in Manitoba for some reason. That situation is something people like Arnold D'Souza are trying to change.
Hopefully, that change will start this weekend.
"We're trying to get the (men's) game started again (in Manitoba)," said D'Souza, who played for Manitoba's provincial senior men's team in the 1980s but left the sport due to family commitments. He came back when his 16-year-old son Daniel decided to give the sport a try.
This weekend, D'Souza will suit up with the provincial team one more time for the Field Hockey Canada Senior Men's Indoor National Championships at Kildonan East Collegiate. The seven-team field will include provincial and select teams from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario. B.C., which placed second last year, dropped out at the last moment due to a large number of their players competing at the Commonwealth Games in Australia or departing for B.C.'s Elite Men's Tour to Europe.
Alberta is fielding three teams this year while Ontario is sending two including the provincial Under-19 squad.
The championship begins today at 6 p.m., with games starting tomorrow at 8 a.m., and running until 8 p.m. The championship games are Sunday with the consolation final at 9:30 a.m., followed the third place game at 11 a.m., and the final at 12:30 p.m.
Similar to indoor soccer and floor hockey, indoor field hockey is played in a gymnasium with six players including the goalie as opposed to the 11 players of the outdoor game. The playing surface is surrounded by boards 10 centimetres high to keep the ball in the field of play.
Unlike the outdoor game, players have to keep the ball on the floor and can only raise the ball in the scoring circle in the front of the goal. Slapshots are not allowed.
"It's a fast sport that requires a lot of agility," said D'Souza, who views it is a low-cost alternative to ice hockey.
"All you need is a (field hockey) stick, shin pads and a mouthpiece and you're good to go," he said.
The establishment of indoor field hockey programs is among the initiatives that Field Hockey Manitoba is using to try to spark interest in the sport in the province especially among males. They have also established school and youth programs and are making a concerted effort to reach out to immigrants from countries where the sport is popular such as Malaysia, India and Pakistan.
"We've really focussed on getting the youth into the game," said D'Souza, a member of the FHM Board in charge of Promotions and Fundraising.
Currently, the FHM has 160 registered players but only 40 of them are males. The women's game continues to grow and now the emphasis is on developing the men's game.
"We're promoting it as an open game," said D'Souza. "It's just a matter of getting people back."