By Brendan Shykora
Halley and Maya Chopra had only a week to prepare for the Field Hockey Canada National Championships, but by the end of the Toronto tournament they were wearing silver medals.
In an all-Ontario final, the Ontario Whites lost a close 1-0 match against the Reds, the province’s first-string team.
“We had one practice the night before the tournament started,” Chopra said, explaining that the Ontario B team she and her cousin Maya suited up for was an eleventh-hour addition by Field Hockey Canada.
Chopra says her team got by on such short notice thanks to experience: “By the time you’re 23 and you’ve been playing hockey for a while, you know enough to just kind of jump in there.”
The team reached the finals after a thrilling semis match against a strong group from British Columbia. Ontario Whites’ Alison Lee scored three goals in the final quarter to tie the game at four goals apiece. The Whites went on to seal victory in the shootout.
“It was so cool for us to play together,” Halley said about her younger cousin Maya. This is Halley’s last eligible year as a U23 player – a fact she leveraged to convince Maya to try out for the team.
“I said to her, ‘This is my last year, so you better do it with me!’”
The Chopras are a field hockey family through and through. It was Halley’s father Sandeep Chopra who founded the Nepean Nighthawks 10 years ago. Her mother got her into the sport early, to say the least.
“The story goes that my mom was still playing in a women’s league when she was seven months pregnant with me,” Chopra laughed. “So I’ve been at it since before day one.”
Whether it’s recreational leagues in Ottawa or joining a Toronto league with past teammates, Halley says she won’t stop playing now that her nationals’ years are over.
“I don’t think I could ever put my stick down and not come back.”
Halley’s two brothers, Rohan and Marek Chopra, played on the Ontario Whites U23 men’s team, along with fellow Nighthawk Adam Sourges. The Whites beat Team USA 5-2 in the round robin (with Rohan scoring two goals) and again in the bronze medal match by a score of 2-1.
In another last-minute scramble, Halley Chopra took over a coaching role for the Ontario East U18 women after the team’s regular head coach had to bow out for personal reasons.
With two weeks to go before nationals began, Halley joined her uncle Anil Chopra to coach the team that featured six Nepean Nighthawks. The group finished 7th in the tournament but played admirably in a 1-0 loss to the championship-winning B.C. Rams.
“We held our own playing those super good B.C. teams. The girls were very fired up to prove themselves,” Chopra said.
For 18-year-old Maryam Maamoun, having Halley on the sidelines was a huge boost.
“She’s one of the main reasons why I continued playing the sport, she’s just so passionate and really encouraging.” The Nighthawks goaltender was named to the ‘Tournament 11’ team at last year’s nationals and will begin playing varsity hockey at the University of Guelph in the fall.
“The more I get invested with the sport the more opportunities I get,” she said. “So I’m excited to keep that streak going.”
Her Whites teammate Olivia Crewe joined the Nighthawks last year to prepare for her own foray into varsity play. She says the number of Nighthawks playing on the provincial teams doesn’t surprise her.
“They have so many opportunities for you to practice in all different types of environments and all different levels, and they provide a lot of opportunities for personal growth,” she said.
“We’re a really good club, and that’s how so many of our players make these teams.”