The Elmira 37’s last week captured the Ontario Ball Hockey Federation (OBHF) men’s B provincial championship title.
Playing in the Kitchener Ball Hockey League, the team punched its ticket to the nationals next summer, a first for the group, with a 3-2 win over Brampton Hollywood Express, something of a powerhouse squad.
“It was just a total team effort,” said Brandon Brubacher. “It was good, lots of hard work, but it definitely paid off in the end. We’re thrilled that we won this year. Last year, we went to provincials, and we got put out in the semi. And then the year before that, we got put out in the finals. We finally did it. We’re all pretty happy about it.”
The Hollywood Express is a highly skilled team as they won their national game this year, said Brubacher. The 37’s were the underdogs but managed to pull through and win the provincial competition.
“All of us have kind of grown up together playing ice hockey-wise, so we kind of all came up through Woolwich Minor Hockey,” said Brubacher. “Most of the guys did. And a few of us have played junior hockey together, like there’s a couple of the guys who did that. I didn’t play on the Sugar Kings, but there’s three or four of them that played together on the Elmira Sugar Kings. We’ve just always stuck together every summer and played together so now our team chemistry is definitely what gives us an advantage.”
Ball hockey may have the same basic rules as ice hockey, but there are quite a few differences between the sports, says team coach Jacob Caldwell.
“One, you’re using a ball. Two, if you stop moving, in ice hockey you can glide. In ball hockey, if you stop moving, you’re standing still.”
It can get just as combative as ice hockey, however.
“It does get pretty rough, especially when you’re at the finals,” said Caldwell. “The summer league that we play in, it’s not a really high-level of ball hockey so you can get away with some pushes here and there. It’s not full-body contact; you can’t hit a guy in the middle of the floor.
“And all we’re really wearing is shin pads, gloves and a helmet for protection. So you’re not dressed up in full equipment. When you get to provincials and nationals, there’s quite a bit of body contact. Like you can push a guy into the boards, obviously not from behind or anything like that, but if you’re going towards the ball and you’re at the same location as him, you can rub your shoulder into him to get him off the ball.”
There are also fluke injuries in the sport – Caldwell himself tore his ACL in his right knee during a game, and Brubacher was once hit in the eye during a faceoff. Wearing the proper safety equipment will reduce these chances.
“We are a tight-knit team, but the ball hockey community, in general, is very tight-knit,” said Caldwell. “We had guys from other teams offering their services to come and play for us. We ended up taking one player from another team.”