A DECADE-LONG CAREER DEFINED BY COMMITMENT TO TEAM CULTURE AND CLUTCH PERFORMANCES
Two times, Adam Froese had the fate of Team Canada on his stick; two times he delivered. But Froese was very clear when he said he didn’t want his career defined by two moments.
“Those are just 8-second moments. They don’t tell the full story. It’s never about one person, it’s never about one moment. It’s years of work by everyone to get us to those spots,” Froese said. “It’s the team celebrating together. That’s what I’ll remember.”
It was years before that first shootout win — propelling Canada to the Olympic Games — against New Zealand that Froese and his brother first turned heads on Canadian soil. The Malaysian-born Canadian-Aussie lived the majority of his life in Australia before coming to Canada as a late teen. He was immediately identified by the national team program and thrust into the spotlight.
Admittedly he said he had aspirations of playing in the Olympics and saw an avenue on the Canadian national team. It wasn’t until after joining that he fell in love with the team and the culture.
“It was kind of selfish at the start,” Froese said, reflecting on joining the team as a 17-year-old. “But then you start to develop friendships and relationships and it becomes so much more. The people became the reason I am so passionate about that team. These are lifelong friends and relationships. This is also the reason why the decision to retire was so difficult.”
Froese logged 195 caps in his 11-year career. Photos/Yan Huckendubler
Froese announced his retirement in early June, 2021, prior to the team’s training tours and Olympic selection. The 2016 Olympian logged 195 caps and represented Canada at the Pan American Games, The Commonwealth Games, The Pan American Cup and the World Cup. He said the decision to stop playing was a year-long back-and-forth spurred on by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“My wife [Claire] and I decided we would go for it. Our daughter [Kaia] was on the way last year and we decided we would live in Vancouver and I’d go for one more Olympic push,” he said. ”During the last year, after COVID started, we moved to Calgary, I’m more focused on my career. It was going to be a huge hurdle to make it work logistically, going back and forth from Vancouver. At the end of the day, my life had changed significantly from where I was a year ago. I thought it was a better decision for the program for me to step away and free up that spot to go to someone that could have an impact for the next 10 years.”
Froese was beloved by his teammates and coaches for being a team-first player, as exemplified by his mature decision to step away. When he reflects on his career, he remembers the highs and the lows but identifies a major pivot point at the 2011 Pan American Games when the team failed to qualify for the London Games.
“I was lying on the pitch in Guadalajara, devastated. I was realizing it’s not always a storybook ending. Knowing I had a choice to make; commit another four to eight years, or not. I was having doubts. That dream I had as a kid just might not come true.”
The rest is history. Froese got his storybook ending — twice — as the team would battle back four years later and win in a shootout over New Zealand, qualifying for Rio. With the ball on his stick in 2019 in the same spot, he delivered again. It was déjà vu, with some important differences.
“In , it was the first time this group had qualified, so that made it super special. After the disappointment four years earlier, it was a huge relief and huge satisfaction,” he said. “And of course, the 2019 qualifier was on home soil, in front of friends and family, coming from behind and doing it again with the cohort I grew up with. I wouldn’t be able to choose between the two, they are just different and amazing.”
Froese said he received countless messages from players on the team, former coaches, players from other countries, alumni and friends and family following announcing his retirement. For him, this outpouring of support exemplified the tight community and familial feel of the sport.
“The global community is so strong. Everyone was been really supportive,” he said. “I’ve put 25 years into the sport and now it comes to end. It definitely makes me think, what’s next? Time moves on and it’s time for me to focus on my family and career and use that same drive I learned through sport and put it into different things.”
By hanging up the boots in June, Froese felt he left the program in a strong place and felt that he did the right thing for himself and the team. He went out with his head held high and much to cherish in an athletic career. For Froese, the main thing was that team and program always came first.
“I’m doing this [retiring at this juncture], because it’s the right thing for the program and for the next generation. If the last thing I ever did in a Team Canada jersey was score a winning goal to get our program to the Olympics, I think I can feel pretty great about that, too” he said. “I still have that game-winning ball on my mantel at home.”
Congratulations on an amazing career, Adam!
Adam Froese represented Canada at every major global competition during his 11-year career. Photos/Yan Huckendubler