Hockey is as much a religion in Canada as it is a national sport. But for many hockey-lovers in the Lower Mainland, where ponds rarely freeze, playing hockey can mean paying thousands of dollars for equipment and arena fees.
It’s no surprise then that the Ridge Meadows Minor Ball Hockey Association has seen the growth it has in the past decade.
The Ridge Meadows Renegades will be celebrating the opening of its 10th season this Friday at Cam Neely Arena. The local ball hockey association has grown from 100 kids in 2003, to more than 1,000 this season, with a waiting list of 150 kids.
“The only thing holding us back is available rink time,” said Ridge Meadows Renegades executive member Diane Draper.
With the cost of ice hockey out of reach for many local parents, Draper says ball hockey can provide a cheap way for kids to play Canada’s most beloved sport.
“The only equipment you need is a stick, some gloves, a helmet, and some soccer shin pads,” she said.
As a result, organized ball hockey is one of the fastest growing youth sports in Canada.
But the appeal of ball hockey goes far beyond its relative affordability.
For many ice hockey players, it offers an effective way to stay in shape and stay sharp through the summer months.
Draper’s son plays midget rep ice hockey as well as ball hockey, she said he finds ball hockey a great way to train in the off season.
“It’s a real workout,” she said. “In hockey you can glide on your skates, but in ball hockey you are running everywhere.”
The rules are roughly the same, with only a few key differences. Games are separated into two halves instead of three periods, and ball hockey uses a floating blue line, meaning offensive players can play the ball all the way back to centre after gaining the zone without having to come back onside.
The local association’s season opener starts at 6:30 p.m. this Friday, April 13, at Cam Neely Arena, and will feature junior-level games, a barbecue, face-painting, and a raffle. Also on hand will be members of the Langley Rivermen junior A hockey team to sign autographs. For more information, visit www.rmmbha.com