Hockey is a family tradition for Alan. He and his dad both went to Aberdeen Grammar School, in Scotland - and both ended up playing for the school first team. They also played for the same men's club team and had the experience of playing on the same team together for two years. At sixteen he was selected to play at international level for the Scottish Schoolboys team. Alan continued his sporting career, later playing and competing in the Scottish National League. In 1996 he moved to Canada and joined the “Jokers,” the Vancouver Rowing Club’s hockey team in the Vancouver Premier League. What’s abundantly clear is that Alan has a true passion for the sport. “I play mid field. It’s great because you’re involved the whole game: both attacking and defending!"
He’s played for Canada at the Masters World Cup twice!
When his children were born, Alan took a ten-year break from playing – taking up coaching instead, coaching both his son’s and daughter’s teams and the Handsworth High School team. But soon family history began to repeat itself: it was now his son’s turn to play in the men’s league. So, they embarked on a joint adventure, playing in the same team at West Vancouver for two years. When he went to university, his son had to change teams: “But I carried on. The following year, I joined the senior level team, then I tried out to join the Canadian Masters Team and was delighted to be selected.” As part of this team, he took part in the 2018 Masters World Cup in Barcelona. The event is held every two years and although Alan was selected to play in the following World Cup it was cancelled because of Covid. In 2022 he was finally got to compete again, in Cape Town, in South Africa.
Canada (3) vs USA (2) 2022, Cape Town
Hockey is a very important part of Alan’s life. He trains every Monday and Wednesday with his club. But as international competitions draw near, there are more and more sessions. When Alan talks about his passion, it’s the mention of competition that really lights up his eyes: “I love it, it’s a real challenge; you need to find creative ways of beating your opponent. Sometimes, you play against a team which has better individual players but if you work together as a team, you can win; it’s very satisfying.”
When you ask Alan about his aspirations for the future, his focus is still very much on competition: “I’d like to compete in the World Cup again and this time see if we can win!"
According to Alan, there are lots of similarities between hockey and his work within the Group: “Hockey has really influenced the way in which I work with others. You’re part of a team. Hockey has made me appreciate the results that can be achieved with collaborative effort.” He draws a seemingly natural comparison between the game and the corporate world: “It doesn’t really matter who scores the goal, as long as someone scores it. It doesn’t matter who signs the contract as long as someone signs.”
Canada Masters Team - Masters World Cup - Cape Town, South Africa (2022)
Is hockey easy to learn? “At the beginner level, it’s a very accessible sport as you play on artificial grass similar to a football pitch. But when you reach a certain level, you need to play and train on hockey specific turf which isn’t available everywhere.” But he remains positive: “If you have good hand-eye coordination, you can run and you have a hockey pitch nearby, then the rest is just practice! You never stop learning with hockey.”
Are you still unsure about trying? Alan makes an excellent point: “Have a go! You’ll never find out if you like something unless you try!”
I’d have to say South Africa because it was very different to what I was expecting. We mostly hear about the country’s poverty and division, but it’s much more than that. The centre of Cape Town is very similar to Vancouver!
2. What was your proudest moment.
When I was 16 and playing for Scotland. We played England, a country all Scots dream of competing against. We didn’t win but I had a good game, and I was very proud of myself at the time.
3. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Again, it was in South Africa during our match against Holland. They’re a formidable team (they won the World Cup) and we were the first Canadian team, at any level, to score the first goal against them. We lost 5-2 but it was incredible to play against the best team in the world and hold our own.