At the end of 2018 we saw a power shift in world hockey, with Belgium completing there rise to number 1 in the world when the won the World Cup in India. But this wasn't the real power shift as Belgium's rise had been coming for sometime, the real power shift was the emergence and re-emergence of the Asia as the new power-house of World Hockey. We saw the continued re-emergence of both India and Pakistan on the world stage, but there was also strong markers laid down by China, Malaysia and in particular Japan ahead of Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympics.
So with this power shift what does 2019 have instore for the world hockey community, well for starters we will see the first FIH Pro league begin, this is the first ever international league of its type launched by any sport around the world. So for the first 6 months of 2019 the top Men's and Women's international teams will follow the sun, starting in Febuary Southern Hemisphere and finishing around June in the Northern Hemisphere. The league will be a home and away format with each of the teams playing games at home and games away over the period, now whether you are for or against this competition its sure to be and exciting time for hockey on the world stage.
So who will be competing in both the Men's and Women's League and who are likely to emerge as the first winners, well lets have a look. In the Women's league you have-
1. Netherland: World Champions, World number 1
5. New Zealand
7. Great Britian: led by there new Coach Mark Hager
9. China: the emerging Asia hockey super-power
In the Men's league we have-
1. Belgium: World Champions, World number 1
4. Great Britian
7. New Zealand
So as you can see both league's are strong, but one can also argue that two teams are missing from the mix in the Men's India who I believe are a real chance for a medal at the 2020 Olympics if not the gold and on the women's side Ireland are not there this time even though they had a remarkable World Cup finishing 2nd. Its hard to know how the absence of these two teams will effect the actually competition or help us get a true accurate form guide leading into Tokyo. I guess only time will tell if the FIH made a mistake setting the teams for this competition so far out from the start back in 2017.
Now who might emerge to win this first ever Pro league, well that is a tough one, it will be the teams that can stay relatively injury free over the journey, it will also be the teams that can travel well when not at home, but also make sure that they win all there home games that I think will end up winning. So with that in mind this is who I think we will see in the semi finals and finals in Wagner Stadium in the Netherlands in June. My prediction for the women's league finalist and ultimate winner is-
Semi Final 1: Netherlands v Germany
Semi Final 2: Belgium v Australia
Final: Netherlands v Australia
The first winner will be the Netherlands.
In the men's competition I predict the following finalist and winner-
Semi Final 1: Belgium v Australia
Semi Final 2: Netherlands v Germany
Final: Belgium v Germany
The first winner will be belgium.
So there you have my prediction and thoughts on the up-coming Pro league, for anyone who wants more information on everything the check out FIH Pro league website. For all our US fans out there there home games are-
16th Feb v Netherlands @ Wake University, Winston-Salem
29th Mar v Belgium @ Spooky Nook Sports, Lancaster USA
31st Mar v Great Britian @ Spooky Nook Sports, Lancaster USA
10th May v Australia @ Spooky Nook Sports, Lancaster USA
12th May v Argentina @ Spooky Nook Sports, Lancaster USA
18th May v China @ Spooky Nook Sports, Lancaster USA
1st June v New Zealand @ Spooky Nook Sports, Lancaster USA
22nd June v Germany @ Spooky Nook Sports, Lancaster USA
If you want tickets to any of those games then go to the Team USA website.
For updates and match reports on the Pro league stay tuned to Field Hockey Sticks USA over the coming months.