Two halves make a whole

Kenn Oliver
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Female ball hockey players from Clarenville and Burin Peninsula came together at the last minute to form a competitive Eastern entry

Players on the Eastern female ball hockey team (in dark jerseys) shake hands with members of the Host team following their game in the female ball hockey competition of the 2012 Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Summer Games on Thursday afternoon. Eastern prevailed 7-0 in the game played at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.  — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

A little under two months before this week’s Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games, the Eastern region nearly lost its girls ball hockey team.

Clarenville’s Craig Cole, whose 16-year-old daughter Jordan was set to play for the team, was having trouble getting players out for practices.

“It was very interrupted, and nobody was committed” says Glovertown’s Monica Feltham, 16.

“There were two practices where it was just me and Jordan Cole.”

Eventually, the team was scrapped, leaving the Eastern region unrepresented.

“I was so sad,” says Jordan Cole, “it would have been my first and only Summer Games.”

“I was rotted when it turned out we weren’t going,” recalls Feltham. “I was so excited to be coming.”

When the news got to Ball Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador, past president Paul Barron reached out to Tom Walsh, a dedicated proponent of girls’ ball hockey. Barron suggested Walsh touch base with Stacey Moriarity, a Grand Bank teacher who had also tried to put together a Burin Peninsula team to represent the Eastern region but, like Cole, couldn’t get enough players to commit.

“I knew if we all worked together, something could happen,” says Walsh.

The two groups came together and were able to meet the registration deadline on the final day. And on Thursday at S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace, the revitalized Eastern team made its Games debut picking up a win and a tie.

Not bad considering the team didn’t have a single practice as a combined group. Moriarity, who is coaching in Walsh’s stead, met half the team for the first time on Wednesday evening when they arrived in Conception Bay North.

But the biggest — maybe only — challenge the team faced was the geography separating the players. Neither Walsh nor Moriarity were concerned about how they would fare skill-wise.

“It wasn’t a challenge for them in terms of skill. It was coming together as a team and getting the lines put together. There are some high level players here, very experienced, so it didn’t take long for them to come together,” says Moriarity, who is a native of Harbour Grace.

Once Feltham learned about some of the players would be joining her and Cole, she “was completely confident,” about the team’s chances.

“Not cocky,” she explains, “but I knew we would be able to work together.”

As for their prospects this week, while Moriarity stays away from making predictions, Walsh sees Eastern’s chances as pretty good. Based on what he saw Thursday, he even suggests it could come down to Avalon and Eastern in the final.

“If they’re not in the final, I would think somebody’s going to play a really good game to knock one of them off. Mount Pearl and Labrador are looking like good teams, so they’re going to have to bring their A game against those two teams.”

Future payoff

Be able to get the team together on such short notice produced a win-win-win situation. Not only does it give the girls their game while having the Eastern region represented, Walsh says it can only help the development of female ball hockey.

Walsh coaches a senior girls ball hockey squad based in Clarenville, one that competed at provincials and the Eastern Canadians this year, and many of the players on the Avalon roster this week are part of that club.

“We figure between those squads there’ll be enough interest to create another senior ladies team next year. That’s why we really needed this team,” he says.

“Hopefully, this experience helps to create some enthusiasm for female ball hockey and it continues for these girls over the next few years and into senior ladies ball hockey.

Hopefully,  fun and a good experience right now will turn into future development for this sport.”

koliver@thetelegram.com

Twitter@telykenn

Organizations: Grand Bank

Geographic location: Eastern, Clarenville, Newfoundland and Labrador S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium Mount Pearl

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