Ball hockey works to gain respect, build a higher profile

John Browne
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Canada’s Mike Stinziani scores one of his two goals on netminder Petrik Stanislav during the Canadians’ 3-0 win over Slovakia in men’s world ball hockey championship action Tuesday night at Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

Canadian Ball Hockey Association president Shelley Callaghan admits her sport has a stigma that never seems to fade away.

It’s that many people still see it as a simple game of pick-up street hockey moved indoors and have no idea of how it is played at the elite level.

That ignorance may or may not have had an adverse effect on the growth of the sport or on the amount of publicity it gets from the national media. However, according to Callaghan, registration numbers in Canada have never been stronger.

“People think it isn’t as organized as say hockey,” said Callaghan. “Some local leagues lack coaching and structure and some like it that way because they say it’s more fun. But the more you get into the provincials and the nationals, you realize this is pretty heavy-duty.

“I don’t disagree that the (negative) perception is there,” said Callaghan. “But the more people who are able to get out and see the world championships, the more they see that it is a classy game and quite structured.”

And it’s growing in popularity across the country and the world.

Right now, there are 40,000, but Callaghan said all of the registrations from the provinces are not it yet as this is just the start of the season. She expects close to 50,000 when the full registration is known.

“Almost half of our membership is from minor (6-19 years) ball hockey leagues,” explained Callaghan, who is from Ottawa.

“We have various age groups, like hockey,” she explained about the minor ranks.

Some of the hot spots for minor ball hockey include Ontario, British Columbia and in Alberta. And, it should be noted, 14 of the 24 players listed on Canada’s national men’s team roster are from Quebec.

“Ball hockey is also growing immensely in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. And it’s starting to take off in Newfoundland and Labrador as well.”

Callaghan, who is in St. John’s for the 2013 world men’s and women’s ball hockey championships, said “A lot of people don’t know the opportunities that exist in ball hockey.

“It’s simply a fun game to play and many youngsters who pick up the game are surprised to find out they can one day wear their country’s jersey in tournaments all over the world.

International Street & Ball Hockey Federation (ISBHF) president George Gortsos, who is also in St. John’s this week, admitted there are doubters who see the sport as something less than hockey or even inline hockey, but Gortsos simply says, “People should get out and see the games and decided for themselves.

“When they see how hard these athletes work and their level of fitness, I think minds will be changed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Callaghan said she’s also seen growth in the female division of the sport.

“A lot of girls are amazed that they could play for Canada one day. We do a lot of scouting across Canada to find that one little diamond in the rough who could play for the national team.”

Having said that, Callaghan agreed there is little doubt the sport needs to build a higher profile across the country.

“We need to get some national sponsors to begin with,” she said. “We can’t rest on our laurels. We need to use the world championships as a springboard.

“This is a huge deal for us to be hosting this tournament in Canada. It’s like hosting a party.”

“Having all the nations here and to see all the smiling faces is a real treat. I’ve met several people from other countries at other world championships and it’s kind of like meeting some family members seeing them here.”

Some of the national teams are bolstered by Canadians. For example, Team Israel has six players from that country on the roster, with the rest coming from Canada.

Callaghan said she’s spoken with members of the Israeli team and they’ve indicated this world tournament was a great way to kick start their organization.

“They are very new, so there are a number of Israeli nationals on the team from Canada. And there are what’s called heritage players in Canada whose families are from the Israel.

There is also large-scale Canadian representation on teams representing Portugal, Italy and Greece. Germany team has 11 or 12 players from that country, with the rest of the team made up of German-Canadians.

She pointed out the United Kingdom team was initially based in British Columbia, but the members of men’s and women’s teams competing this week are all from the U.K. with U.K. passports. There are 30 men’s teams competing in the United Kingdom.

The sport is in the early development stages in such places as Bermuda, where teams used to play on an outdoor parking lot, but they’ve recently built an indoor facility specifically for ball hockey.

Ball hockey is already strong in countries such as Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Organizations: Ball Hockey Association, Street Ball Hockey Federation, ISBHF

Geographic location: Canada, British Columbia, Ottawa Ontario Alberta Quebec Saskatchewan Manitoba Newfoundland and Labrador United Kingdom Portugal Italy Greece Germany Bermuda Czech Republic

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Recent comments

  • kevin mcneil
    June 06, 2013 - 10:02

    How come there are not any players from Ontario on Team Canada?

    • henny
      June 06, 2013 - 23:46

      Hey Micker ..All the Ontario guys are playing for team Canada in Toronto in the World Cup of Ballhockey

  • Fan
    June 05, 2013 - 23:05

    There should be more media coverage. This is a world tournament. There should be a link to the stats and standings. I should not have to search the web for the schedule, it should be on the local media. Local tv should be showing clips of the games. I went to 2 games and JBA was not full.... for a world tournament??? This is really good hockey.

  • Jeremiah
    June 05, 2013 - 15:50

    Ball hockey or floor hockey is like golf in that anyone can play (some better than others) and hopefully won't become too expensive. Great for kids and adults who just don't have the skills to play games such as ice hockey of football. It is what it is, a good game which can be played by all ages and should be marketed that way.

    • jeremiahs mother
      June 06, 2013 - 07:59

      you must be such a great athlete... How much time did you spend in front of your computer today ?

    • DJM
      June 17, 2013 - 13:34

      Ball hockey is a game that is great for all people to play, but you really do need to be skilled to play in a competitive league. Any sport can be played by everyone as long as they stick within their skill level. Most leagues I've played in consist of ex-university ice hockey players and a lot of great athletes.

  • Big Rig
    June 05, 2013 - 09:43

    I don't know about other provinces but to get into New Brunswick Provincials all you have to do is pay a fee. Last year there were teams there with 2 wins all year. Hard to grow the sport when to qualify for provincials you just pay a fee. Yeah great competition.