No ice? No skates? No problem! Saskatchewan Ball Hockey has you covered. Ball hockey is a game for pretty much anyone.
It’s a national pastime for many – no matter your age -- and even if skates aren’t your thing, ball hockey could be the best option. “The slogan is ‘No ice, no skates no problem’ for a reason,” said Dean Crossland, president of Prairie Ball Hockey Association.
You can literally play the game with only a stick, a helmet, gloves and some love for the sport. The league supplies its players with shorts and a jersey -- unless you choose to outfit your whole team.
Founded by Crossland in 2009 out of Saskatoon, the Saskatchewan Ball Hockey league started with only 36 kids, 15 adult teams. Three years later that number multiplied by nearly 30, and sat at 1000 youth players and 55 adult teams (Mens, Womens and Coed). Currently – with about 5000 participants and 65 per cent youth players -- you can find ball hockey in Regina, Saskatoon, Lloydminster and Prince Albert.
Starting from age four you can register on a team. With spring leagues in all cities, annually, and summer leagues running based on expressed interest, it’s likely you’ll find a league suitable for you.
All cities have youth leagues running from ages four to 19. You can find men’s league in Saskatoon, Regina and Lloydminster. Co-ed teams run in Regina and Saskatoon, and a Women’s league in Saskatoon only.
Ice hockey can run rack up a pretty expensive price tag when you take into account the cost of gear and registration. So, ball hockey is a great way for parents to introduce their child to the game, for a relatively inexpensive price. “I see kids of all ages, they love hockey, but they may never be able to play. Some people just don’t have the money. So, this is their ice hockey. It’s kind of like their NHL,” said Crossland. Once you factor in the cost of a helmet, stick and gloves and add in the cost of registration, he said ball hockey will probably only run you about $350. Comparatively, ice league can run into the $1000’s.
Essentially, you can find all of the equipment used at a sports store. And, chances are you’ll be using the same gear for years to come. The league holds a number of tournaments each year -- provincials, junior nationals for under 15,17 and 19. Additionally, those players can be scouted to play for Ball Hockey Team Canada. Same thing goes for men’s in skill divisions A,B,C,D and E. Men’s teams have national championships for A,B,C and D. The winning teams at provincials represent Saskatchewan at nationals, in their respective divisions. This year Saskatchewan sent four teams to junior nationals. Three youth players and one adult were asked to play for Canada at the 2016 World Ball Hockey Championships in Prague, Czech Republic.
Crossland said in the past the league has had four or five NHL players involved. This includes team Canada’s goalie Braden Holtby – currently playing for the Washington Captials and recipient of the prestigious Vezina trophy. Many athletes continue to play sport in the offseason to help stay in shape for the next year. And, ball hockey players find themselves coming over from a number of different sports including basketball, volleyball and of course ice hockey. It’s a great way to keep up your social life, and still fit in a workout for anyone at any age. You can join with a friend or two or you can put in a whole team.
“For adults it’s a fun way to stay in shape, as opposed to getting a treadmill for twenty minutes. I know for a fact that you burn anywhere from 700 to 900 calories in a game. I’ve actually tracked it on my fitbit several times,” said Crossland. Even if you’ve never played ice hockey, ball hockey is a great way for people of all ages to get involved with the sport. For more information about contacts and when to register for the upcoming season visit http://saskballhockey.com.
Byline Alex Johnson
Hard work and ‘having fun’ puts Saskatchewan ball hockey players on Team Canada Alex Johnson
Ball hockey might seem like a fun pass-time, but five guys living in Saskatchewan played on Team Canada and they want you to know that elite-level ball hockey could be in the cards for you -- just like it was for them.
Twenty-four-year-old Christian Magnus helped Canada win gold at the World Under 20 Ball Hockey Championship in the Czech Republic in 2012. He had never even played ball hockey until making Team Sask. in 2011. Scouts spotted his drive from the stands and recruited him to join Team Canada. Magnus attributes his success to being both an ice hockey and ball hockey player. “There’s a lot of similarities and differences between the two games, but that’s what has helped me be the player I am in both games,” he said. Magnus says hard work can get you on Team Sask. for ball hockey, and his advice beyond that is to keep trying to “crack past” the provincial level where you can experience nationals.
19-year-old Connor “Cheddar” Navrot currently plays Junior A hockey in Swan River Manitoba. Originally Saskatchewan-born, Navrot played on Team Canada twice for ball hockey -- 2014 in Slovakia and 2016 in England. Navrot appreciates the coast-to-coast travel the game has offered him, and recommends the experience to all up-and-coming players. His dad introduced him to ball hockey, and Navrot says he owes his success to his pops. His advice for any players trying to make an Under 20 team: “Just go out and have fun. I wasn’t really expecting to make any of those teams but I just went out and worked my hardest, and success came.”
Defenseman Evan Peters from Saskatoon is 27-years old. He played Junior B in his high-level ice-hockey-days with the Saskatoon Royals. Peters played Team Canada for ball hockey in 2013 when we hosted on home-turf in St. John’s Newfoundland. Peters has been playing ball hockey for about seven years, and he doesn’t see his career slowing down any time soon. “I just love the game, and any excuse I can find to play more is what I drive off of. A lot of guys say I have a really good work ethic but I just love the game just like anybody else,” he said. Peters said he thinks hard work and taking the time to have fun is the key to making it to the top.
Justin Monaghan played Junior B for the Dixie Beehives in Toronto, he’s 26-years-old and he played on the Saskatchewan National team for the last three years. But, the highlight of his ball hockey career was in when he played on the Team Canada U20 team in Vienna, Austria. Monaghan said his success could be anyone else’s, because he played with his buddies – like so many other ball hockey players -- and that drove him to be better. “It’s opened a lot of doors for me in the last few years, and I’m thankful for that,” said Monaghan. He recommends anyone trying to make Team Canada should go to as many tournaments as possible. “Play as much ball hockey as you can, and get to those national tournaments because it’s a showcase for yourself. Scouts are watching. They’re always watching,” he said.
Nineteen-year-old Logan Schatz played ball hockey on the U18 Team Canada in 2014 when he travelled to the Czech Republic, and the U20 team in 2016 in England. He currently plays in the SJHL for the Humboldt Broncos. Ball hockey has opened the doors for travel, and he’s seen the country coast-to-coast. “I’m a pretty quick runner so that’s one of the reasons I’ve had success. I use my speed because ball hockey is a game about speed,” said Schatz. For anyone trying to make it to the top, he recommends pushing to the next level available in your city or town, because “you’ll never get better if you’re not playing with guys that aren’t as good as you. Just keep pushing.”