Dragflick Newsdesk : When Scott Tupper was asked to re-live his 16-year, 322-cap career, he said the little moments stood out just as much as the big moments. He has many big moments to revisit, including three Olympic Games, two world cups, a plethora of Pan American Games, Pan Am Cups and other major tournaments world-wide.
But for the long-serving captain of the Red Caribou, the small moments, be it wet Vancouver practices, or after-training hangouts with the team, made just as much of an impression.
“Not everyone is like this, but I really like practice. That normal day-to-day stuff that, in the moment, isn’t always super fun, but it sharpens you during your career,” he said. “It’s just a lot of fun and I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. That’s the stuff I look back on. The team moments.”
Tupper has plenty to look back on. His 16-year career will go down as one of the all-time great Canadian field hockey careers. His 322 caps are third all-time, only behind legends Ken Pereira and Rob Short. Tupper’s 126 goals are most by any Canadian hockey player.
Tupper got his start on the national team in a home test series against Scotland in 2005. At that moment, he was a young, raw and physical defender. As he became more refined, and added skill and experience, he started to be relied on as a major contributor to the team.
In 2007, when Tupper was only 20, he was a part of the historic Pan American gold-medal winning team. Following that, he earned a starting spot on the 2008 Olympic Games roster, as one of the two youngest players on the team, along with Mark Pearson.
“During that period [2007-08], I started to get more comfortable playing high-level hockey. I was still getting my feet wet and learning how to play against the best players in the world,” he said. “I was able to play a lot of minutes and start for the whole year … It was all new experiences.”
By the age of 22, Tupper had already played at the highest level and was a two-time Pan American gold medalist, as the team won again in 2009. Over the next several years, Tupper played elite hockey over-seas in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, again adding vital international experience to his resume.
Tupper became the team captain in 2012 and after missing out on the 2012 Olympic Games, he said he felt a responsibility to shepherd the next generation of Team Canada back to the world’s highest stage. Following the epic 2015 shootout win over New Zealand to qualify for Rio, Tupper said he felt equal parts joy and relief.
“I know for Mark [Pearson] and I, we felt a burden to make sure we carried the legacy of Canadian field hockey,” he said. “When we had become more senior players, we felt like it was a duty to get this next group to an Olympic Games. To have that relief knowing we had done it [in 2015], was unbelievable.”
Tupper is one of Canada’s longest-serving team captains. He said he looked up to guys that came before him including Rob Short and Ken Pereira. He said their enthusiasm and passion for the game left a lasting mark on him and led him to be a better leader during his time wearing the captain-armband.
“Leadership is like any skill in sport. You get better at it, and you figure out what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “As I’ve evolved as a leader, I’ve probably quieted down a little bit. If I wanted to make a serious point, I really wanted it to hit home. By the end of my career, the team was quite experienced and could guide itself. I was really lucky, while I was a captain, to have an experienced group.”
In a career that spanned 16 years, Tupper experienced many firsts, seconds, and thirds. But in 2019, Tupper experienced a late career first, and an unexpected one at that. Tupper was selected to be the Team Canada delegation flag bearer for the 2019 Lima Pan American Games.
An honour at the time he said was “an incredible honour, and for the COC to give me the opportunity, I’m immensely grateful.”
Tupper closed out his career at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo, an experience he said was unlike any other. He is now coaching field hockey in the NCAA environment at the University of Maryland. He said the decision to retire was difficult, in the end, he feels confident in his choice to hang ‘em up and pass the reigns onto the next generation.
“After the Olympics, I went straight to work in Maryland. I didn’t even think about playing hockey for a few weeks,” he said, noting that he had gone for a few runs over several weeks, realising that he didn’t feel motivated to train and prepare as he had previously.
“I’ve always said, the minute I don’t want to do the training, you are kind of telling yourself it’s time to hang up the sticks and start cheering from the sidelines.”
Scott Tupper retires as one of the longest-serving team captains in Canadian hockey history. His 322 caps are third all-time and his 126 goals is first all-time. He is among the most decorated Canadian field hockey athletes and a three-time Olympian.
Congratulations Scott, on an incredible career and for your years of on- and off-field commitment to the sport and the community.