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Ball hockey hitting the high schools

B.C. championships get going in May in Port Moody
Levi Batters and Kyle Bliss will be playing for the Terry Fox Ravens in the inaugural B.C. high school ball hockey championships May 13-15 in Port Moody. Currently

Stick-wielding kids have long been darting and deking on city streets, in parking lots, lacrosse boxes and community centres.

Now ball hockey is going mainstream – and hitting the high schools as it catches the interest of educators trying to keep kids busy and active.

The sport’s novelty and low cost is perfect for students and high schools under budget constraints, says Rob Moxness who’s organizing the first B.C. high school ball hockey championships, May 13 to 15 at Port Moody Recreation Complex.

“Research shows that the peak time for youth criminality falls within the hours of 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., which underscores the need for school communities to develop meaningful, physically active and socially engaging after-school programs.

“Ball hockey is a fun, affordable and all-inclusive sport that is gaining popularity with both students and their families,” Moxness said.

“Implementing it as an after-school program will provide many opportunities for student engagement and success,” he says.

Six squads will compete in what Moxness is calling a grassroots tournament.

Teams in the tourney are Port Coquitlam’s Terry Fox Ravens, the Mission Roadrunners, Stelly’s Stingers of Victoria, Delta’s Burnsview Griffins and the Fleetwood Park Dragons and Johnston Heights Eagles, both of Surrey.

A Surrey school teacher and 15-year competitive ball hockey player, Moxness began lobbying schools last January, and reconnected with Port Moody’s Tony Bellano.

They both played in the Canadian national men’s ball hockey championships in 2003 and 2006 where they competed against Vancouver Canucks hockey hero, Alex Burrows.

The positive response since –– about 100 students are expected to play in provincials –– has been pretty much what Moxness expected, with one particularly pleasant surprise at Terry Fox secondary.

“They are all passionate about ball hockey and most of them don’t play ice hockey, so it gives these types of kids an opportunity to carry on with the game in a more competitive environment,” said Whitson.

He like to see ball hockey become a more established school sport.

“The long-term goal would be to build another program that would offer the opportunity for the kids to be competitive and active, doing something they are passionate about.”

Currently there is no representation from Pitt Meadows or Maple Ridge, but Gary Slavin, vice-president of the West Coast Minor Ball Hockey Association of B.C., and a Maple Ridge resident, want this to change.

And there’s lots of opportunity here.

When the Ridge Meadows Minor Ball Hockey Association started in 2003 there were only 150 players.

Now there are more than 1,000 players, with 200 on a waiting list.

Bringing ball hockey to high schools would also open up more facilities for the sport.

“With Ridge Meadows ball hockey, with 1,000 kids, floor time has always been an issue,” explains Slavin. “There’s just not enough arenas.”

Slavin would like to see the Ridge Meadows Minor Ball Hockey Association and the school district to get something going next year.

With more than 6,000 youth currently playing organized ball hockey provincially, Moxness felt it was time it graduated to the high school ranks to help keep kids in a positive, athletic environment after school is out for the day.

“The primary goal is to provide fair, safe and equal participation for all prospective high school ball hockey athletes.”

Moxness is also working with Surrey Parks and Rec to create a high school ball hockey league next April, culminating in what he hopes will be the second annual provincial tourney.

Eventually, Moxness wants the sport to include girls and special needs students.

“That would be awesome.”