Ball hockey keeps on rolling for North York Lynx league

Sports Jun 25, 2010 North York Mirror

Yes, minor hockey - and ice hockey on a whole - has taken a significant hit in enrolment numbers the last couple of decades in Toronto, but its ball hockey cousin is in the midst of a bit of a renaissance.

Take the North York Lynx Minor Ball Hockey League, for instance.

The Don Mills-area league, one of only two outdoor programs in Toronto dedicated to youth, has seen substantial and steady growth since taking root here a decade ago.

Greg Tedesco, founder and president of the Ontario Ball Hockey Association-sanctioned loop, thought it was just a fad at the time, but clearly he was on to something.

In its first year it took in a surprising 150 kids, he said, giving credit to the public school system for its efforts in helping spread the word.

The league now boasts 450 kids aged six to 18 and another 160 adult female members.

A former player himself when the game was called street hockey and played on any given Canadian cul-de-sac - an activity that was banned by the city several decades ago and currently under review - Tedesco sees the ice adaptation of the game has taken its lumps. He thinks his 10-week summer league, which runs from April to June, may be a part of the solution to the downturn.

"It's the perfect place to start off for (ice) hockey, learning about the game, the rules," he said, noting the rules are identical save for "a floating blue line where the centre line becomes the blue line" once play passes the neutral zone.

"And it's a lot harder to stick handle in ball hockey. Your endurance and your skill level would go up, too," he said.

Apart from a couple of smaller ball hockey leagues there wasn't many places for youth to safely play in Toronto, something the father of two sons recognized and set out to change.

The real motive for starting the league though, he admits, came as a result of many tiresome commutes twice weekly to his former East York neighbourhood, where his sons toiled in a Withrow Park outdoor league - the only youth-oriented league at the time in the city.

It was during one such drive east that it dawned on him.

"I stumbled across this outdoor rink (Broadlands Community Centre) with glass around it," he said. "I had no idea it was there...then I thought, 'why not start something up here'?"

The rest is history.

It was a lot of work initially, he said, "but now it's just word of mouth and it keeps growing."

Since the arena is entirely outdoors he's at the mercy of the weather much of the time.

"If I had a steel barn roof over (the rink) and I could go seven days a week I would. It's a pain when it rains," he said.

He added the playoffs, which run June 24 to 26, take place indoors at Don Mills Arena each year to avoid weather issues.

The league president is also in the early stages of installing a junior (under 21) division.

"I thought about a men's league, but men tend to take it a bit too seriously," he said.

Once the playoffs are done the league will send a team in each division, from ages six to 18, to the provincial championships.

The league has seen some success on the provincial stage and has even been represented at the nationals.

The provincial championships, which take place next month, will be held in Oshawa and London this year.

Ball hockey keeps on rolling for North York Lynx league

Sports Jun 25, 2010 North York Mirror

Yes, minor hockey - and ice hockey on a whole - has taken a significant hit in enrolment numbers the last couple of decades in Toronto, but its ball hockey cousin is in the midst of a bit of a renaissance.

Take the North York Lynx Minor Ball Hockey League, for instance.

The Don Mills-area league, one of only two outdoor programs in Toronto dedicated to youth, has seen substantial and steady growth since taking root here a decade ago.

Greg Tedesco, founder and president of the Ontario Ball Hockey Association-sanctioned loop, thought it was just a fad at the time, but clearly he was on to something.

In its first year it took in a surprising 150 kids, he said, giving credit to the public school system for its efforts in helping spread the word.

The league now boasts 450 kids aged six to 18 and another 160 adult female members.

A former player himself when the game was called street hockey and played on any given Canadian cul-de-sac - an activity that was banned by the city several decades ago and currently under review - Tedesco sees the ice adaptation of the game has taken its lumps. He thinks his 10-week summer league, which runs from April to June, may be a part of the solution to the downturn.

"It's the perfect place to start off for (ice) hockey, learning about the game, the rules," he said, noting the rules are identical save for "a floating blue line where the centre line becomes the blue line" once play passes the neutral zone.

"And it's a lot harder to stick handle in ball hockey. Your endurance and your skill level would go up, too," he said.

Apart from a couple of smaller ball hockey leagues there wasn't many places for youth to safely play in Toronto, something the father of two sons recognized and set out to change.

The real motive for starting the league though, he admits, came as a result of many tiresome commutes twice weekly to his former East York neighbourhood, where his sons toiled in a Withrow Park outdoor league - the only youth-oriented league at the time in the city.

It was during one such drive east that it dawned on him.

"I stumbled across this outdoor rink (Broadlands Community Centre) with glass around it," he said. "I had no idea it was there...then I thought, 'why not start something up here'?"

The rest is history.

It was a lot of work initially, he said, "but now it's just word of mouth and it keeps growing."

Since the arena is entirely outdoors he's at the mercy of the weather much of the time.

"If I had a steel barn roof over (the rink) and I could go seven days a week I would. It's a pain when it rains," he said.

He added the playoffs, which run June 24 to 26, take place indoors at Don Mills Arena each year to avoid weather issues.

The league president is also in the early stages of installing a junior (under 21) division.

"I thought about a men's league, but men tend to take it a bit too seriously," he said.

Once the playoffs are done the league will send a team in each division, from ages six to 18, to the provincial championships.

The league has seen some success on the provincial stage and has even been represented at the nationals.

The provincial championships, which take place next month, will be held in Oshawa and London this year.

Ball hockey keeps on rolling for North York Lynx league

Sports Jun 25, 2010 North York Mirror

Yes, minor hockey - and ice hockey on a whole - has taken a significant hit in enrolment numbers the last couple of decades in Toronto, but its ball hockey cousin is in the midst of a bit of a renaissance.

Take the North York Lynx Minor Ball Hockey League, for instance.

The Don Mills-area league, one of only two outdoor programs in Toronto dedicated to youth, has seen substantial and steady growth since taking root here a decade ago.

Greg Tedesco, founder and president of the Ontario Ball Hockey Association-sanctioned loop, thought it was just a fad at the time, but clearly he was on to something.

In its first year it took in a surprising 150 kids, he said, giving credit to the public school system for its efforts in helping spread the word.

The league now boasts 450 kids aged six to 18 and another 160 adult female members.

A former player himself when the game was called street hockey and played on any given Canadian cul-de-sac - an activity that was banned by the city several decades ago and currently under review - Tedesco sees the ice adaptation of the game has taken its lumps. He thinks his 10-week summer league, which runs from April to June, may be a part of the solution to the downturn.

"It's the perfect place to start off for (ice) hockey, learning about the game, the rules," he said, noting the rules are identical save for "a floating blue line where the centre line becomes the blue line" once play passes the neutral zone.

"And it's a lot harder to stick handle in ball hockey. Your endurance and your skill level would go up, too," he said.

Apart from a couple of smaller ball hockey leagues there wasn't many places for youth to safely play in Toronto, something the father of two sons recognized and set out to change.

The real motive for starting the league though, he admits, came as a result of many tiresome commutes twice weekly to his former East York neighbourhood, where his sons toiled in a Withrow Park outdoor league - the only youth-oriented league at the time in the city.

It was during one such drive east that it dawned on him.

"I stumbled across this outdoor rink (Broadlands Community Centre) with glass around it," he said. "I had no idea it was there...then I thought, 'why not start something up here'?"

The rest is history.

It was a lot of work initially, he said, "but now it's just word of mouth and it keeps growing."

Since the arena is entirely outdoors he's at the mercy of the weather much of the time.

"If I had a steel barn roof over (the rink) and I could go seven days a week I would. It's a pain when it rains," he said.

He added the playoffs, which run June 24 to 26, take place indoors at Don Mills Arena each year to avoid weather issues.

The league president is also in the early stages of installing a junior (under 21) division.

"I thought about a men's league, but men tend to take it a bit too seriously," he said.

Once the playoffs are done the league will send a team in each division, from ages six to 18, to the provincial championships.

The league has seen some success on the provincial stage and has even been represented at the nationals.

The provincial championships, which take place next month, will be held in Oshawa and London this year.