Hiebendaal aiming to make up for lost time with Bloemendaal and add to 2011 EHL gold medal

A decade on from his first EHL gold medal, HC Bloemendaal’s Tom Hiebendaal is hoping to make up for a lot of lost time at the EHL Men’s FINAL4 next week at the Wagener Stadium.

As a teenager, Hiebendaal – 27 this month – was one of the hottest properties in the Dutch game. At 16, he made his first team debut with HGC, shining in a couple of ROUND1 games en route to their ultimate 2011 success.

He went on to Junior World Cup bronze, netting six times in the tournament, and European Junior gold in 2014, again with a healthy goal ratio.

Hiebendaal, far right, celebrating with his team mates following his goal against Kampong this season. Pic: Koen Suyk/World Sport Pics

It seemed he had the hockey world at his feet with an international debut when just 20; Self-Pass were calling on his skills for their videos and he was awarded the 2015 Hoofdklasse Golden Stick prize as one to watch for the future.

But then the injuries came and Hiebendaal – whose skills traverse the midfield and forward lines – spent the guts of two and a half years on the sidelines.

“I got one cap and, of course, the dream was to play more and more,” he told the EHL website. “But things happen. Injuries, studies, a lot of things happened and it was not the road I wanted it to be.

“It started off as six week, then it became another six weeks, six weeks more, then three months. I went to another doctor and it was the same road for one year. You follow some roads and it took two years and it didn’t get any better.”

All told, he lost the guts of three seasons before he finally found the solution as an osteopath suddenly saw the issue.

“He fixed everything in two treatments. The problem was over-training, the muscles were too tight all down my whole left side all down to the ankle. He treated all those muscles; my ankle wasn’t in the right position but no one ever looked at it before.

“He fixed it and within two weeks I could play again! It was just wow! It’s still going very well at the moment. It was a very long road, a lot of setbacks, hard times and those are the times you learn a lot about yourself, not just your body.”

All the while, his passion for the sport, to play and to compete, kept him going where many would have given up, moved on to coaching or tried something else.

“That was the most important thing. Hockey was a big part of my life and featured in a lot of my dreams. A lot of people would quit after one year but this is not me.

“I want to play at the highest level; that’s the reason I came back, because of this positive mentality. In two years, you can ask my family, it was a very difficult period. They saw the pain on my face every time.

“But the positive vibe that ‘I am going to play’ never went away. I didn’t know how long it would take but, fuck it, I will manage it.”

And while a short spell at AH&BC Amsterdam did not work out, his career was reinvigorated in the 2019-20 season with a short spell at Uhlenhorst Mülheim.

“I was with Amsterdam but not really playing that much. We had a conversation about what next and so I thought about looking at something else. Omar Schlingemann was the coach at Uhlenhorst but also my Under-18 coach and made that move happen.

HGC’s 2011 winning EHL side. Pic: Frank Uijlenbroek/World Sport Pics

“It was unfortunate we couldn’t finish the season because we were brilliant. We were first in the table, scored 50 goals – something unbelievable; I got nine in 11 games which I had never done before.”

Because of what the club offered him, he is hopeful to meeting his old friends in the EHL GRAND FINAL if Bloemendaal can get around the challenge of Royal Léopold.

A mixture of Covid and his masters studies in Amsterdam meant a return to his homeland with Bloemendaal the club to spot an opportunity to bring him in, linking him up with ex-HGC team mate Jorrit Croon and Dutch Under-21 team mate Thierry Brinkman.

And he says he has never enjoyed his hockey more since making the switch.

“I had been contacted by Bloemendaal six or seven years ago so it is  very long story with them. They wanted me when I was 20 but then everything happened, Eventually we managed to work with each other and it was an honour to join them.

“After 12 games, we won every game this season which hasn’t been done in the Hoofdklasse for 10 years! It’s maybe the best team I have ever played in and maybe the best I will ever play with.

“The hockey level is amazing but, also outside of the field, this is a really nice team. Lots of good friends and that is one of the strengths. It is not just about hockey, such a nice connection outside of the field.

“Our system is always give-and-goes, going at speed, countering. This is my game! Uhlenhorst was similar with [Timm] Herzbruch, so much speed, it is unbelievable to play in it. I fit in the style although I haven’t made a lot of goals yet but doing a lot of work because we have eight different guys who can score.”

Their perfect record was undone recently by Den Bosch but a big 2-0 win over his old club HGC last week has them back on track with a five-point lead over SV Kampong with seven rounds to go.

And now he hopes he can finally start adding more medals to his cabinet to the one EHL title from 2011.

“It is, of course, another reason I went to Bloemendaal, to get better, but I want to win titles and maybe go for something higher. The EHL is a dream. It will be a strange one with no public but we know we have to step up our game now because this is one of the best prizes anyone can win in their hockey career. We take it very seriously and I want that gold medal!

“I still have my medal at home It was a very special weekend, a special tournament and one of the best prizes you can win.

“It was my first season and I had only played a couple of games in the Hoofdklasse; we had a couple of injuries so I was a bit lucky [to get a few games].

“That season we weren’t really great in the Hoofdklasse, I think we became ninth but won the EHL! It was very strange but it was an honour to play with these guys. Rob Short is one of the legends of HGC but also a really nice guy, Kenny Pereira was amazing. Big names, very nice to play with; as a 16-year-old it was like a dream.”