Wood Buffalo Ball Hockey Club
It’s a sport that promotes teamwork and skill development, and doesn’t come with a hefty time commitment other sports can have.
The Wood Buffalo Ball Hockey League (WBBHL) offers a men’s and women’s league, run by Chris Nolin, and a minor league for youngsters aged three to 17, run by Rob Barnsley, and he has a couple of good reasons why people should play.
First, it offers three seasons of play: Spring which runs from the beginning of April until the end of June and is the league’s biggest season. This year’s spring session is booming with 300 kids in all levels of play. Then there is the fall season which runs late September/early October until December and the winter season which runs January to March.
“Not only is ball hockey a great workout for adults – or a great energy burner for kids – it’s an easy way to make new friends,” he adds.
While hockey is as Canadian as it gets, there are a couple of deterrents like the high cost of ice hockey and players have to know how to skate.
“Ball hockey is a great cost effective way to play the great game of hockey, just not on ice.”
Barnsley explains the minor league offers several different divisions: Pre Novice for three and four-year-olds, and five and six-year–olds. They play an eight-game season that is focused on fun while building skills and getting to learn the game of ball hockey. Each team has between eight to 10 players.
The format is 60-minutes floor time with half playing floor skills and drills followed by a fun game with no score keeping.
The Novice division is for seven to nine-year-olds and Atom-Intermediate is for 10 to 14-year-olds. They play 10-regular season games plus two championship games. All games have officials.
These two divisions play two 16-minute stop time games with shoot-outs if necessary. They also get a 60-minute session.
Games are predominantly played at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre at MacIsland while some are played at the Syncrude Sport & Wellness Centre. There are no out-of-town games.
“The biggest thing parents like is we currently only play on Saturdays so for families, it is really easy to schedule,” acknowledges Barnsley.
However, this may change as the league grows.
He points out the WBBHL has joined the Alberta Minor Ball Hockey Association meaning it can now take teams to provincial championships just like in ice hockey for kids.
It’s not an extensive – or costly list – of equipment that’s needed.
Barnsley lists off a CSA approved hockey helmet with cage, hockey gloves, elbow pads (if wanted), a cup/Jill (if wanted, but recommended), shorts or sweat pants, soccer-style shin pads (mandatory), running shoes (for best grip use court shoes).
Goalies must wear a CSA approved goalie mask or hockey helmet and cage. Also, goalies may wear regular hockey goalie pads, blocker, glove and chest protection.
All sticks must be standard, made of wood or composite.
The WBBHL provides jerseys for all players.
The costs are $135 plus GST for Pre-Novice and $230 plus GST for Novice and Atom-Intermediate.
“Volunteers are key to any sport and ours is no different,” says Barnsley. “Coaches and timekeepers are all parent volunteers and they do a great job.”
He has been involved in ball hockey as a player, official coach and now running a league “for a very long time. I love the game and all the benefits it brings to a community.”
When talking about the benefits of playing, he cites meeting new friends, playing a new sport and building skills for ice hockey.
There are two major words in the WBBHL: No gliding.
That means “you run a lot,” chuckles Barnsley. “So it’s a great workout.”
In cities across Canada, he notes that many ice hockey players turn to ball hockey for cardio exercise, and to improve ball and puck handling skills. Coaches will notice a difference even after one season of ball hockey in their ice hockey players.
“Skills improve. Kid’s love it and it is a great workout for any age.”
Anyone interested in joining can visit the WBBHL website, www.wbbhl.ca. Kids register as individuals while adults register as teams.