Lucie Manhartova of the Czech Republic battles for the ball with Canada’s Fannie Desforges (21) at the Glacier in Mount Pearl Wednesday night during women’s division action at the 2013 world ball hockey championships. Canada won 6-0. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
You may be surprised to hear most of the 25 teams competing this week at the 2013 world ball hockey championships have paid their own way to St. John’s.
“It’s the nature of our sport that if you want to compete at the world level, you are going to be paying out of your own pocket,” said International Street & Ball Hockey Federation (ISBHF) president George Gortsos.
“In these economic times, it’s unbelievable that we had so many nations able to make it here,” said Gortsos, who figures teams have to come up with between $50,000 and $60,000 to make it to Newfoundland and Labrador.
“It just show you the dedication and love of the sport the ISBF family has.
“It’s not easy.”
Teams representing the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Slovakia get some government funding to help offset the cost of travelling to the championships, but most don’t. Others were also able to get some funding through sponsorship.
Gortsos also said there were four or five other countries who wanted to come but, for various reasons, couldn’t make it.
He said India, for example, had the funding but the players couldn’t get their visas in time. Finland and Austria couldn’t come up with the funding.
The Canadian Ball Hockey Association’s relationship with Sport Canada comes through its associate membership with Hockey Canada, which is the recognized governing national sports organization for all hockey. But Gortsos, a former Canadian player and team coach, points out ball hockey receives no funding from Sport Canada.
He said the Canadian team is chosen as the result of performances at national championships and sometimes through a selection camp, but the players have to pay their way to that camp.
In the meantime, Gortsos commended the local host committee for the work it has done.
“I have to commend the Newfoundland Ball Hockey Association. They do a great job for ball hockey in this province, which has a great tradition in the sport,” said Gortsos, who isn’t surprised the tournament is going over well in the capital city and area this week.
“I mean, what other association in the history of Newfoundland has brought together 25 national teams for a world tournament involving with 700-750 players coaches?”
“All I’m getting is that the teams are blown away with how they are being treated here. It was a huge challenge to make it here, but once they got here they’ve been made very welcome. What a great job the host committee has done!”
There are eight Newfoundlanders on Canada’s long-list national men’s roster including Chris Feltham (Paradise), Patrick O’Keefe (Mount Pearl), Justin Pender (St. John’s), Mike Dyke (Gander), Terry Ryan (Mount Pearl), Andrew Sweetland (Bonavista), Robert Slaney (Upper Island Cove) and Jordan Escott (St. John’s). O’Keefe, Pender, Ryan, Sweetland, Slaney, Chris Sparkes and Escott are on the Canadian men’s team competing in these worlds.
Gortsos also pointed out how much fun there is involved within the ball hockey community during major tournaments.
Asked in an ISBHF e-magazine interview what was his most memorable game he ever played in, he picked out Canada’s win over a very strong Czech Republic in the 1996 world championship final in Bratislava, Slovakia.
“It really was incredible to win the world championship with guys who were very close and tight knit,” said Gortsos.
“And what a party we had in Bratislava. I can remember coming out of the club at 6 a.m. to catch our bus to the airport at 7 a.m.”
Gortsos noted this province has “a proud tradition of ball hockey champions.” And he’s right about that. India Bears won the province’s first Canadian senior A ball hockey title in 1982. The St. John’s Celtics captured the national ball hockey title in 1986 and Best Western Travellers of St. John’s won back-to-back titles in 1987 and 1988... As a clarification, it’s been pointed out Bermuda has been in the world championship tournament for over a decade and has had a ball hockey league for longer. The team’s new, impressive facility is outdoors and the $300,000 cost was privately funded. The 165 foot x 80 foot lighted rink was officially opened last year. Check it out at royalgazette.com/article/20121124/SPORT11/711249946