The two heroes of the moment couldn’t have been more different.
Hero number one was Jeff McAvinn. Old, crusty, and as unathletic as they come, McAvinn scored in the last minutes of the championship game to tie it up and send it to a shootout.
Number two, Melissa John, had played competitive hockey back in Canada and was one of the league’s best goalies during the regular season. She had stopped the first two shooters while league leading scorer, Jay Hawkins, had scored one on the heavily favored Around Seoul Savages.
In Hollywood fashion, John stopped the final shooter to clinch the 4th league championship for the Big Rock team and won the playoff M.V.P. award.
Upon stopping the final shot, she was mobbed by her teammates as hundreds of spectators and a dejected group of Savage players looked on.
“What a great way to end an amazing season!” beamed an exhausted but happy John who will be returning to Canada this fall. “I’ll really miss this group of clowns” she said, mussing McAvinn’s hair.
To league all-star and Big Rock captain, Brett Roberts, being overshadowed in the finals summed up what the league is all about. “It doesn’t matter how skilled you are or what other players think of you, if you come out, play hard, and have fun, anyone can be the hero.”
Canada Ball Hockey Korea (The CBHK) was started up three years ago by a small group of ball hockey aficionados who would meet regularly to play pick up hockey in a parking lot in Suwon. “When we first decided to try starting up an organized league, we weren’t sure if it was going to work or not,” according to one of the league founders, Kurt de Vries, “but we were able to get an inline rink and we had enough players for four teams. It started to grow from there.”
Currently the league has over 120 members with eight teams and runs two seasons a year: one in the fall and one in the spring. Games are played on Sundays from noon to 8 p.m. with each team playing two 45-minute games per week. The games try to strike a balance between good competitive ball hockey and fun.
“This isn’t like back home where we have enough players to create divisions for players with different skill levels. Everyone plays together here and it hasn’t been a problem” says the current league chairman, Colin Gennoe. “We welcome whoever wants to come out and have a fun time playing hockey.”
The games are only a small part of what the league is about. I talked with two-time captain and one-time league MVP, Peter Mosca, at his favorite hangout, The Rocky Mountain Tavern, which also sponsors the league. Mosca also had a message for those thinking about signing up to play this fall.
“We’re more about meeting new people and having fun outside the rink” said Mosca. “We like to party. If you’re a new player and you like to party, please let me know so I can make you one of my merry men this fall.”
Other captains might not be as keen on partying but agree that the emphasis is on having fun.
CBHK director Andrew Maio of the Expat Living Team takes a shot towards the goal during 2010 spring league playoff action. Photo by Colin Gennoe
“Anyone who comes out to the rink on a Sunday will see more than just ball hockey” said Adam Bencze. “You’ll see a diverse community of expats from all over North America, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand who enjoy hanging out and helping each other out.
“It’s not just teachers in the league either.” He added. “We have male underwear models, accountants, musicians, lawyers and mimes” said Bencze, who is himself a graduate of Marcel Marceau’s Ecole International de Mime and sometimes performs during the breaks between games.
Englishman Dave Theophilus, has these words to say for non-North Americans who aren’t sure if they would like to play ball hockey.
“I’ve played three seasons in the league and have had heaps of fun. The Canucks are a crazy bunch and if you want to have a good workout, meet some great people, and have a good time, by all means come out and give it a try.”
Theophilus, who first became interested in hockey playing it on Xbox, says it doesn’t take much skill to play or smarts to pick up the rules. “I mean, if Canadians can figure it out and do well at it, then anyone can.”
In addition to rink keg parties, the league has organized various social outings like trips to the Boryeong Mud Festival, bowling parties, paintball, and trivia nights. It has also sponsored players going overseas to international ball hockey tournaments in Japan and Hong Kong. The past two years, CBHK teams have won back to back Yamato Cups in Japan and finished second in Hong Kong’s Canton Cup this year. Scott Lumsden who was a member on all of the tournament teams is impressed with the amount of skilled players in the league and hopes that one day they can send a team to the World Championships. “We definitely have the talent, it’s just a matter of giving them some financial support and being able to get our best players over there.”
The league’s main sponsor is Big Rock Brewery, an Alberta-based microbrewery that is located near Gangnam Station. “It’s where we have most of our social events and is also good place to hangout and quaff a few high-quality beers after the games are done.
“Andy Kim, Big Rock’s owner, lived in Calgary for a number of years and knows how important hockey is to the expat community in Seoul, so he’s been very supportive of us” says league executive Andrew Maio.
The fall season is set to start on Aug. 29 and will finish on Dec 12. League fees (140,000 won) cover an awards banquet, a team shirt, and 14 weeks of hockey. The deadline for signing-up online and paying is by bank transfer is Aug. 26. The first 120 players to pay will be guaranteed spots on teams.
Games are played at the Olympic inline rink located next to the Olympic Stadium nearby the Sports Complex Station on Line 2. For more information, go to http://www.cbhk.org or e-mail email@example.com.
By Robert Gibson (firstname.lastname@example.org