The Canada Cup is making a comeback.
Last Sunday – the final day of the Women’s World Softball Championships – tournament organizers announced that the popular international event would return to Softball City in 2017.
The Canada Cup will be familiar to longtime Surrey softball fans – it ran from 1993 until 2010, though the final year did not feature an international women’s division.
The tournament was replaced by the Canadian Open Fastpitch International Championship, which ran until last summer.
But with the success of the just-completed world championships and the likelihood that softball is reinstated on the Olympic agenda – the International Olympic Committee votes in early August – local softball organizers felt the time was right to return to their Canada Cup roots.
“It means the tournament will have more of an international focus,” said Greg Timm, longtime chairman of the Canadian Open committee as well as the world championships.
“With softball being back in the Olympics, there will be money coming back into the sport for each country. So it will likely help us bring in more teams, and also youth or development teams from some countries that (previously) didn’t have the funding before.”
The Canada Cup will still feature under-16 and under-18 youth divisions, Timm added.
Since it replaced the Canada Cup, the Canadian Open has largely focused on the youth tournaments, and though an international women’s division was still part of the event, organizers often had trouble attracting top teams.
Canada was also a top draw annually, but the top-ranked United States rarely sent a team to South Surrey, and the popular Australian squad – longtime competitors at the Canada Cup – did not attend in 2014 or ‘15.
“We just didn’t have the critical mass at the top” of the international division, Timm said.
Between the expected Olympic announcement and the success of the Surrey-hosted world championships, Timm expects there to be a noticeable injection of enthusiasm and funding for softball in the future.
“We’re excited that the sport is returning to (previous) levels. We feel like maybe we’ve inspired the sport a little bit and… injected a shot of adrenaline into the sport internationally.”
Timm was quick to credit the success of the world championships – which ran from July 15-24 at Softball City – to the event’s legions of volunteers.
While final-day numbers were still being finalized, Timm estimated that the tournament saw 150,000 park entries over the 10-day event, which would make it “the largest, or amongst the largest” world softball championships ever held in terms of attendance.
That said, Timm was most impressed with the way the city embraced – and often helped – visiting national teams.
“For us, the headline here is the random acts of kindness that happened throughout the week, and how well our guests were treated all week by our volunteers and our local citizens and businesses,” he said. “It didn’t matter if you were 29th-ranked Serbia or the first-place team from the U.S. – everybody got treated with the same amount of respect. That was absolutely tremendous.
“We are super pleased with how things went… and want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to the community.”
On the field, Timm was impressed with the showing of the gold-medal champion U.S. squad, as well as the host Canadian squad, which lost its first game of the championship round-robin – 6-1 to Venezuela – before running the table later in the week, with impressive victories over Mexico, China and the Netherlands.
Canada’s tournament ended in semifinals, after a loss to Japan.
“They went on quite a run,” Timm said. “To see Canada get a bronze medal made it a huge success for them, to be a top-three team as we are set to re-enter the Olympic movement.”
No matter where teams finished in the final standings, all involved enjoyed the experience, he added.
“I believe Kenya was the only team that didn’t win a game, but they scored runs and got hits – I know they were still thrilled with their performance,’ he said. “Israel won a game, Serbia won a game – and it felt like they’d won a world championship when they came off the field.
“Everybody felt good that at their own level, in their own way, they’d accomplished something.”