In a city that lives and breathes the game of hockey, that passion is usually reserved for the version played with a puck. But a Don Mills league defies that theory.
The North York Lynx Minor Ball Hockey league just completed its sixth season at Broadlands Community Centre and Don Mills Arena, a season which president Greg Tedesco called a great success.
"We’ve grown each year since we started and this past season was our biggest," he said. "We started with 12 teams and 180 players in the first year, to fielding 26 teams and 420 players this year."
Ball hockey is very similar in nature to ice hockey, except players are not on ice, they wear running shoes and they play with a bright orange ball. A majority of the rules from ice hockey are adapted in the ball version.
The league, which boasts to experience the fun of street hockey without the threat of cars, is for children aged 6-16 and runs from April to June. While there have been two occasions where two rep ice hockey teams joined the league, Tedesco runs it in more of a house league style with individual registration.
What makes the Lynx league unique is that most of the games are played outdoors – only the playoff games are played indoors to avoid possible rain. The fact that it is a natural progression from the time playing street makes the league more appealing to kids and parents.
While he actively promoted the league to schools throughout the area in the first year, Tedesco does not need to do that anymore. Word of mouth is his number one advertising tool.
"I think because the season is short and ends in June, parents prefer it because it doesn’t interfere with holidays or other sports," he said. "And unlike baseball, the kids are running around in ball hockey, so parent like the fact their children are being active."
Tedesco remembers that when he was growing up, there was only one ball hockey league in the entire city, so he wanted to provide another option. The Lynx league has since grown into a well-known staple of the community and is a member of the Ontario Ball Hockey Association.
"I think kids were given a choice to play either baseball or ball hockey," said Tedesco. "And it seems like a lot more of them are playing ball hockey."
For more information, visit www.northyorklynx.com.
Here is a list of the champions from the 2006 season:
Tyke (those born in 1998-1999) – Fido/Unicell
Novice (those born in 1996-1997) – Neo
Atom (those born in 1994-1995) – Heenan Blaikie
Peewee (those born in 1992-1993) – CMI
Bantam (those born in 1990-1991) – St. Mike’s Buzzers