Pitt Meadows’ George Petrelli remembers people going out of their way to compliment him on his son’s play during street hockey games in the neighbourhood.
“They were saying, ‘He’s got a got a gift, he’s got something going on,” the proud father said, “And that was very early on, back when he was four or five years old.”
Fast forward to 15 years later and Matteo Petrelli is still playing ball hockey, albeit at a much higher level.
The 19-year-old, who turns 20 in February, was just selected to play goaltender for Team Canada’s under 20 squad at the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation’s (ISBHF) World Ball Hockey Championships in Switzerland this summer (June 21-29).
Getting to travel to one of the most beautiful countries in Europe to play competitive street hockey may seem like a dream come true, and for Matteo, it certainly is.
“It’s obviously an honour to be a part of that group and to be selected to play for Team Canada. I’m excited and I think it’s going to be a good tournament,” he said, “I’m incredibly lucky to be able to go to a place like this – just for ball hockey – it’s crazy!”
This is far from his first time getting to travel to play the sport he excels at however. Matteo has ventured all across Canada while playing with Team BC and even played at the U16 world championships when they were held in Sheffield, UK in 2016.
During the tournament, Matteo lead Canada to gold, eking out a 2-1 victory against a tough Czech Republic team and earning himself tourney MVP honours in the process.
“It was a wild game,” George, who accompanied Matteo to the tournament said, “As a parent watching it, it was quite the show.”
The stakes will be a little bit higher in Switzerland. The country has a professional ball hockey league, so scouts will be watching the visiting players closely to see if any prospects for their respective teams look interesting.
“He could actually get paid for something he likes doing!” said George, who said he is very supportive of Matteo’s tenure as a ball hockey goalie.
The local athlete plays ice hockey too, spending a couple years with the Grandview Steelers Junior B squad, but he has excelled when a ball is in play.
“The ball’s easier to see than a puck,” he said, “And I’m more positionaly sound in ball hockey.
“It’s easier for me to move because I’m not wearing skates, I’m wearing shoes.”
To get ready for the tournament, Matteo will be keeping his fitness up but he won’t get a chance to form bonds with his team mates beforehand.
“We’ll be meeting at the airport on the way,” he said, “We’ll go there a couple days before and have our four-day training camp with the team and that’s all we have.
“Four days to gel together and then we play a seven or eight game tournament.”
As a boost, his whole family will be there to cheer him on.
“It’s expensive to travel,” George said, “But you only live once. We’ll go as a family and we all go to support.”