A silver medal at the provincials is an excellent way to end a season and for the Peninsula Sharks Major ball hockey team, the second place finish came after two years in the making.
The team has only been around for those two years and the league they play in — the Greater Victoria Minor Ball Hockey Association — has only been active for five. Prior to that, apart for a well-established men’s league, ball hockey was not as organized as it has been on the lower mainland. Coaches Mario Rainaldi and Kent Roden have taken the team on these last two seasons. They said before that, players from the Saanich Peninsula who wanted to play ball hockey had to travel to other teams in Saanich and the West Shore.
These days, as the league has grown from humble roots to more than 1,000 youth, the Peninsula has been able to field its own teams at the peewee, minor and major levels and more.
The coaches say they hope the sport continues to grow and said they plan on taking the current major squad to the next level.
“There are no junior teams in ball hockey in Victoria,” Rainaldi said.
“To create a junior team,” added Roden, “we might have to get these guys into the men’s league, play there and then get over to the provincials.”
The goal, Roden continued, is to give the 15 and 16-year old players the skills, ability and confidence to continue playing well into adulthood. And if they can keep the group together and working in their team system, the coaches say they should do well.
Ball hockey for many of the players started as a way to stay in shape for ice hockey during the off season. They play in the same-size rinks, only on their feet instead of skates, on a dry floor. There are fewer pads (a helmet and gloves are still mandatory) and the game allows more space for play-making and anticipation than its on-ice equivalent. Rainaldi added ball hockey incorporates strategic elements of ice hockey, soccer and basketball — his areas of speciality, while Roden brings a lot of experience from years of playing in the adult league.
“The kids bought into the system we brought,” Rainaldi said and his co-coach added they really played as a team throughout the season.
The boys lost their opening game at the provincials, 7-5 to Surrey, but bounced back in a big way to win three straight and punch their ticket to the final against Delta. They fell 6-3 in that one, but the coaches say it was a tough match and silver is nothing to sneeze at.
“These kids are all athletes,” said Rainaldi. “We could put football pads on these guys and they’d do well.”
The team wrapped up its season this week at a barbecue at one of the team family homes.