Glen Foll (centre) stands between Hockey Night in Canada hosts Don Cherry and Ron McLean during the Vancouver Canucks' 2011 playoffs run.

Captain of the Kangaroos

Glen Foll played for his adopted country on the world stage 80 times.

by Andrew Fleming

There’s no shortage of B.C.-born hockey players who have come up big on the world stage.

Goaltender Carey Price of the Ulkatcho First Nation earned his 14th consecutive win after backstopping Team Canada to a 2-1 victory over Team Europe in last month’s World Cup of Hockey final. “Burnaby Joe” Sakic wore the red maple leaf at seven different international tournaments, including leading the national men’s team to its first Olympic gold medal in 50 years at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.  Shea Weber of Sicamous has patrolled the blue line for his home country seven times so far and has won gold at six of them.

But one name that rarely comes up in discussions of the best British Columbian to appear on international ice is that of former Surrey resident Glen Foll, who laced up his skates to play in no less than 80 games.

If you’ve never heard of him, it’s probably because he played for Australia.

Foll first began his hockey career playing in North Surrey Minor Hockey Association midget league. He went on to play for the Surrey Saints in the Pacific Junior Hockey League and later in the British Columbia Junior Hockey League, bouncing around between a number of teams including the Vancouver Bluehawks, the Langley Eagles and the New Westminster Royals. But, like a lot of young Canadians do, he had the urge to go walkabout in his early twenties.

“It was either buying an RV and travelling around the U.S. with some buddies or go to Australia on holiday,” Foll, 54, said over the phone last week while back in town visiting family. “But then someone told me that they played hockey down there as well and so I asked the ice hockey federation for more information. They ended up sending me an overseas player form, which helped fast-track my work permit, which was a lot easier to get in those days, and I ended up playing on a team in the premier league.”

The 5’10” defenceman soon established himself as one of the top players with the Macquarie Bears (now known as the Sydney Bears) during his Down Under debut season, and he stayed with the team for several years while still returning to North America to play in the off-season. It helped the aspiring pro athlete’s schedule that Australia’s winters are North America’s summers and vice-versa.

But after being cut after a two-game tryout for the now-defunct Atlantic Coast Hockey League, he returned to Oz for good. Foll became the league’s leading scorer in the 1988-89 season, which coincided with his first appearance playing for the Australian national team, known as the Mighty Roos, in an International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championship Group C tournament held at home in Sydney.

“I think it was probably the biggest crowds of any tournament I’ve played in, and lots of people came out to all the games, not just ours.”

The Roos lost all seven games but Foll was hooked. He went on to play in a total of 16 IIHF tourneys, ending his international playing career with a total of 22 goals, 46 points and one bronze medal after the Roos defeated Hungary 8-1 in the C division in 1992. Foll also holds the record for captaining the most world championships of any player with a total of 12 after first donning the C in 1990.

For most Australians, “hockey” means the far more popular sport of field hockey, where the national men’s team is currently ranked number one and the women’s team is in fourth place. (For comparison, the Canadian men’s field hockey team is ranked 12th place and the women 18th.) Anyone who has visited Whistler in recent years can attest that Australians have an affinity for winter sports, yet so far ice hockey has yet to catch on the same way as skiing or snowboarding has.

“It is a sport that is catching on but there aren’t a lot of arenas, and that dictates how much the sport can grow,” said Foll. “In Adelaide, the city where I live now, we only have one arena and this is a city of 1.2 million people. Nationwide, competing with public skating and then figure skating is our biggest competitors for ice time. In our arena, it’s broomball that is the big one.”

Foll said the sport is nonetheless making strides and pointed to the example of forward Nathan Walker, 22, a third round draft pick by the Washington Capitals in 2014 currently playing for their Hershey Bears AHL farm team.

“He is the only true Australian who grew up playing hockey here to be drafted,” said Foll. “He wasn’t actually born in Australia, he was born in Wales but moved here when he was one-year-old or something.”

Oddly enough, while Foll has played the most games for Team Australia, the player with the most points also once skated on Surrey ice. Current Adelaide Adrenaline captain Greg Oddy, 36, of the eight-team Australian Ice Hockey League was briefly a member of the Surrey Eagles in his Junior A days back in 2001. The 6″1′ centreman went on to earn 135 points as a member of the Mighty Roos over 14 years, donning their green and yellow jersey for the last time in 2012 playing in the IIHF Group B division, where the Aussies once again came in last place.

The Roos are currently ranked 36th internationally, two places ahead of arch-rivals New Zealand and 35 spots behind Canada.

Although Foll never got to play for his adopted country at the Olympic level, he at least got to watch his original homeland win gold on home ice. Foll, who now runs a sports store specializing in ice hockey gear and is frequently in Canada to pick up new equipment, was back in the Lower Mainland during the 2010 Winter Games.

“My brother-in-law is the editor of a newspaper in Adelaide, and he was able to set me up as a correspondent,” said Foll, who remains active with the sport as both a coach and referee. “It was pretty amazing to be able to see so many of the big games. I was really lucky.”

While the press box may be as close as a captain of Team Australia ever gets to a Winter Olympics gold medal game, there’s always the chance broomball somehow becomes an Olympic sport.

 

Just Posted

Surrey White Rock Ringette Association ‘excited’ about world championships coming to Lower Mainland

Ringette Canada says the sport has reached record registration numbers

After nearly 100 years in the field, Cloverdale farm recognized for agricultural leadership

Surrey Board of Trade awards Heppell’s Potato Corp with leadership award

Surrey Fire Chief says ‘reverse engineering’ fatal OD victims will help tackle crisis

Partnership between Surrey and Stats Canada a ‘social demography or experiment, of peeling the layers off the onion to understand what the root causes are’

First look at Cloverdale Athletic Park’s future field house

Field house part of $5.8-million revitalization project

‘Born for Greatness’ singer Flandez returns to Surrey for free Tree Lighting Festival

INTERVIEW: A ‘Riverdale’ connection for Richmond-based singer, who has performed here in the past

VIDEO: Stan Lee leaves posthumous message for his fans

Marvel Comics’ co-creator died on Monday at the age of 95

Liberals to act quickly if Saturday midnight deal deadline breached: source

Oh Friday, Canadian Union of Postal Workers said it would not bring the latest offers to a vote of its members

Police probing a number of allegations of sex assault of Toronto school

Police say they have learned of other incidents of alleged assault and sexual assault

B.C. referendum ballot count jumps to 18% returned, Elections B.C. says

New count adds ballots received, but not screened for authenticity

Dead killer whale discovered on Nootka Island

“This is very concerning to our people.”

VIDEO: Protected bighorn sheep killed in B.C. Interior

The sheep are considered a species of concern because of their low population in B.C.

Missing-persons list tops 600 in fire-stricken California

Disaster escalates as officials raised the death toll to 63

VIDEO: The definition of a kilogram has officially changed

50-plus countries voted to a ground-breaking overhaul to the international system of measurements

Deer carcasses don’t belong in green bins, says B.C. city

City of Nanaimo issues reminder to residents, saying fur isn’t compostable

Most Read