It’s like saying goodbye to a dear old friend… OK, maybe that’s just a bit too much drama. But it will mark the end of an era in the world of hockey when the city of Breda, in the south of the Netherlands, hosts the last ever Champions Trophy starting this Saturday 2018-06-22, with a final scheduled for Sunday 2018-07-01.

Last Champions Trophy
The Champions Trophy

It will be the 37th edition of this institute in our game of hockey, not counting those also played by women, since Pakistan first organised this event in 1978. The Champions Trophy became one of the major titles in hockey, right up there with the Olympics and the World Cup. Often described as the toughest of them all because there were no weaker countries playing these Champions Trophies.

Before the start this weekend we have enjoyed 655 high calibre games since 1978 with an average of 4.6 goals/match. If you’re into stats the FIH launched a special website where you can compare all teams and players throughout the years at stats.fih.ch ! Enjoy ;)

Nobody is happy this is the last Champions Trophy ever

I doubt you’ll find an international player or coach who is happy this will the last edition. Nor a lot who are really happy with the HPL or Hockey Pro League who will replace the Champions Trophy as of 2019. It’s been decided a couple of years ago already by administrators and marketeers without listening much to coaches and players. Instead the stakeholders involved and meant to please are sponsors, commercial partners, media and institutions such as the IOC. Important stakeholders all of them, but we do regret coaches and players of the current era were not so much involved in the decision making processes.

That’s why these next few days and weeks we’ll hear from a lot of hockey people and media the FIH should come back on their decision. It will not happen… These criticasters might have our sympathy but either they live in the past or they did not think things through. Change was inevitable. This last decade the event had already lost a lot of its credibility when instead of earning participation it became an invitational event, to continue to include the likes of India and Pakistan who had slipped in the global ranking. Meanwhile the Champions Trophy still was good for lots of global ranking points. Which means the global ranking lost a lot of its credibility as well. But that’s another discussion… ;)

Because of the decline in the level of participants countries like Germany chose to use it rather as a grooming event for their up and coming young talents instead of really going for the win. That’s when the fate of the Champions Trophy was sealed… the moment it became a mere invitational event instead of a major title.

Last Champions Trophy in Breda
The Champions Trophy site in Breda

Let’s enjoy some great hockey

But ahead of us is the last Champions Trophy ever. Where the 4 strongest nations in the world are joined by India, important because of sponsors and TV audience and Pakistan, because the founders of this great event deserved a spot in it’s last ever edition. And I do think we will enjoy some spectacular hockey as these teams are preparing for the World Cup in Bhubaneswar, India later this year.

So this Saturday at 14h CET, which is 17:30h in India, 22h in Sydney or 09h in Buenos Aires the Champions Trophy starts of with the biggest clash of them all between India and Pakistan. These encounters rarely offer great hockey but are a guarantee for an entertaining game. I’m sure to be on the edge of my seat for all 60 minutes (and complaining it’s not 70 minutes anymore) of that game. So if you’re going to Breda for one of the other teams, be sure not to miss the opening game between India and Pakistan. I’m sure we’ll be entertained.

The world’s number 1 Australia, as well as home nation and international powerhouse the Netherlands, will be challenged by two up and coming nations in the world of hockey. The Netherlands will open versus Olympic Champions Argentina and Australia vs Olympic silver medallist Belgium, chasing their first ever win. These 4 together with Germany will be the main contenders at the end of the year for the World Cup. So make sure not miss these games.

Where to watch

You can follow it all online at the FIH website or on TV (click here for more info where to watch) or if you happen to live in a country not hindered by old fashioned geo-blocking you can watch it all on the FIH YouTube channel. So instead of complaining about the end of this wonderful event, let’s enjoy one last time the Champions Trophy. And some of the best hockey :)