As soon as Yellowknife arenas remove the ice from their rinks next spring, ball hockey is set to start in its place through the Jungle Hockey League (JHL).
After the great response the JHL received from Alberta participants, the league decided to expand across the country, said Dennis Davison, president of the Edmonton-based JHL.
They especially want to set up leagues in centres that don’t have an opportunity to compete at the national level.
“We know there’s talent up in the territories and want to give it exposure for nationals,” Davison said, adding that he knows a handful of players from the North who have gone on to compete on the Canadian stage.
Next spring, JHL will launch in Yellowknife and Whitehorse. After that, Davison said there could be opportunities to grow further.
The league will be open to adults and children, with options to play in co-ed or gendered leagues. Registration will open later this month and with it, the JHL Yellowknife website will launch.
So far, Davison said the response has been “overwhelming.”
He said the league’s social media pages have “blown up” with messages of soon-to-be participants already wanting to sign up. Several have also offered their time as volunteers to help the league run smoothly – a gesture that Davison said is much appreciated as an organization operated entirely by volunteers.
“The great thing about ball hockey,” Davison said, “is that it’s a sport for everybody.”
While skating skills or equipment fees could be holding some hockey players back, all you need for ball hockey is a stick and a pair of running shoes. Though players will require helmets as well, he said.
“Everybody likes playing ball in the street and now it’s just taking it to a more organized level,” he said.
Still six or so months into the future, it’s too soon to say what public health recommendations might be once the JHL is ready to blow the whistle. For now, teams in Alberta are playing at reduced rosters but Davison hopes those limits may be loosened by the spring.
He emphasized that the JHL wants no one to be left behind. If participation fees are unfeasible for any interested players, he said to reach out and that they would make arrangements.
Especially in a tumultuous year, Davison said “it’s great to see people playing sports.”
“Anytime we can get people out and active in the communities it’s a good thing.”