Canadian team veteran Terry Ryan is encouraging all sports fans in the St. John’s area to check out the 2013 World Ball Hockey Championships, opening Sunday at Jack Byrne Arena.
“Those who have never seen the game at this level will be surprised at the speed and the shooting ability of the players,” said Ryan, who has competed for Canada in five world championships.
Ryan said spectators will probably be surprised at the pace of the game given that many of the teams turn over five lines.
“I believe it was teams from this province in the 1980s who were the first to turn over four lines,” he said.
Ryan is fortunate to get an opportunity to play for Canada this time around. There was a point this year when it looked as if he’d have to pass up the tournament due to a hockey injury.
He broke two ribs and had a collapsed lung while competing for Conception Bay North CeeBee Stars in provincial senior hockey in February, but says he’s completely healed and ready for the ball hockey challenge.
The 36-year-old said his goal was to be physically ready by May in terms of letting the national team know if he could play or not.
“I thought I was better a month and a half ago, but I still had some problems so I started running. Now, I’m at the point where I’ve been running up Signal Hill five times a week,” he said.
Ryan, who is from Mount Pearl, is one of several Newfoundlanders involved with the Canadian team, including Chris Feltham of Paradise, Patrick O’Keefe of Mount Pearl, Andrew Sweetland of Bonavista, Justin Pender of St. John’s and Robert Slaney of Upper Island Cove, as well as alternates Mike Dyke of Gander, Jordan Escott of St. John’s and team coaching staff members Ian Moores of Bay Roberts, Chris Sparkes of St. John’s and David Roper of Mount Pearl.
Ryan, Slaney, Moores, Escott and Dyke were all a part of the Herder Memorial Trophy-winning CeeBees, and Ryan said it would be pretty cool to add a world ball hockey championship the same year to that accomplishment.
“The Newfoundland guys are experienced hockey players and they can play ball hockey,” he said. “We have a tradition of producing very good ball hockey players in this province.”
Ryan claims Sweetland is the most “dynamic” offensive ball hockey player in Canada.
He expects Canada and the United States, along with the Czech Republic and Slovakia, to be the strong contenders for the crown.
“There are a half-dozen teams who could win the championship, but I’ll be disappointed if we’re not in the final,” he said.
“We’ve always had heart and determination, but we’ve got more scoring this time. Still, we can’t take anyone for granted.”
Ryan said ball hockey very popular in Czech Republic and Slovakia and it’s part of hockey training programs from an early age.
“It’s part of their culture.”
There are three Newfoundlanders on the Canadian women’s roster. Kristen Cooze of Kippens, Dawn Tulk of Deer Lake and Amanda Kean of St. Anthony join assistant coach Tom Walsh of Clarenville and team doctor Jessica Wade of St. John’s.
While the 18-team men’s tournament opens Sunday, the eight-team women’s event gets underway Tuesday at the Mount Pearl Glacier.
Pool A of the men’s section of the tournament opens 2 p.m. Sunday at Jack Byrne, with France taking on the United States. That game is followed by Pakistan and Slovakia at 4 p.m. and Czech Republic and Switzerland at 6 p.m. Canada takes on Germany at 8 p.m.
Pool B games at the Glacier include Italy against Israel at 4 p.m. followed by Great Britain and Cayman Islands at 6 p.m. and Bermuda and Hong Kong at 8 p.m.
The women’s division opens 8:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Mount Pearl Glacier. There are also games 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. with Canada taking on the Great Britain at 2:30 p.m.
The championships conclude June 9.
The tournament is held every two years. Czech Republic won the men’s title in 2011 and Slovakia took the women’s crown in 2011. Canada was runner-up both times.
Tickets for individual games are $5. Tickets for the championship games for men’s A and B pools as well as the women’s pool are $10. Tournament passes are available for $40 and can be purchased at the Jack Byrne Arena in Torbay and the Mount Pearl Glacier.