Pitch Perfect

League

Like in India, hockey assumes significance in an Olympic year for it's one of Australia's best bets for a gold medal. Dwyer excelled in cricket himself and says he would have played professional golf if not hockey. "Hockey is basically a family sport. You play it because you love it. And then, there's the lure of playing at the Olympics. Trust me, there's no better feeling than winning an Olympic gold."

'In Germany, hockey doesn't earn you a livelihood'

Oscar Deecke I 26 (German striker)

HIL team: Delhi Waveriders

Of the hunting trophies that Oscar Deecke's Burse a rifle with a very long barrel has collected, one that stands out is the head of a massive buck hanging in his parents' house in Hamburg. His most prized possession, however, is a much smaller item, earned in a significantly less violent manner, although perhaps a lot more sweat and blood went into it. It hung around his neck as he stood on the podium in London on August 12, 2012: an Olympic gold.

The 26-year-old's twin passions hockey and hunting might seem vastly different, but in Deecke's case, they are two sides of the same coin. For in order to be a good striker, one needs to have predatory instincts. Hunting is also an outlet for the stress of the sport in particular, and life in general. Stripped of all preoccupations, out there in the woods, it's man against nature. As he puts it succinctly, "hunting takes me away from the city's hectic life and helps me refocus."

The city that drives him away to the jungle nurtured his first love. "The hockey scene is very vibrant in Hamburg," Deecke says. "It is to German hockey what Jalandhar or Ranchi is to Indian hockey." And, therefore, almost everyone in his circle at some point has played hockey. "My father used to play hockey he still plays at an amateur level. When I was three, he took me to a local hockey club. I've been playing the game ever since. My two sisters are also club level hockey players. I'm the only one to have made it to the German national team, and now to the Hockey India League. So you can say that I have made my family proud," Deecke says.

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