By Josh Howald
A long trip to NARCh
Bruce County certainly didn’t travel the most miles to be at NARCh, but nonetheless, this team has come a long way.
The last time the North American Roller Hockey Championships made a stop in Mississauga, Bruce County did put a team on the floor. That team, however, left demoralized and was nearly the end of roller hockey in southwestern Ontario. Bruce County failed to touch the puck in its first contest, ended by the mercy rule after about four minutes. They scored just once in four games.
We will see Friday what a few years of learning, and developing the game can do.
Since the team’s last NARCh appearance, some of the players have joined an organized league in London, Ontario, and others have kicked started a youth program. This team is selected from a twice weekly pick-up game in Walkerton, Ontario, about three hours northwest of Mississauga. They are used to playing shirts vs. skins on the concrete floor in Walkerton, changing in lawn chairs and pick-up truck tailgates outside of the arena’s back door while watching minor baseball games going on adjacent fields.
Just one of the players is actually from Walkerton, a small, close-knit community. It’s the capital of Bruce County, and there was no discussion about what this team would be called, or who it was representing. The team playing in this year’s Men’s Silver Division has players from Kincardine, Mildmay, Hanover, Teeswater, Paisley and Formosa – hardly booming metropolises. Every one of them was ice hockey players first, and would probably still say that now.
But their love of the game can’t be touched, and finally, enough talent has arrived on the scene for this team to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, they have no opposition. There are no teams within two hours of Bruce County to play against. They competed in one tournament this season in Brantford, Ontario. The previous year, they were defeated at the same tournament. This year, they emerged with two wins, and were definitely in both of their losses. While this team is ecstatic at the prospect of simply playing a competitive game – complete with officials, sport court and face-offs – don’t think they are just happy to be here. They want to win.
The team, and the sport of roller hockey won last weekend. The Bruce County squirt Capitals may not have won a game at the NARCh tournament, but they fell in love with the sport. Coached by members of the men’s team, the squirts soaked up the experience and hopefully, a lifelong bond with the sport was forged.
The next step is to solidify that love next season with a larger junior program, and then perhaps in the future look at installing a floor somewhere in Bruce County. A solid performance from the men’s team at this year’s tournament wouldn’t hurt that initiative.
So while this team only drove three hours to be here, they have indeed come a long way.
Now, it’s time to prove it. Let the games begin!
-Josh Howald is the Sports Editor of The Kincardine Independent newspaper and wears #10 for Bruce County. Read more online at www.independent.on.ca, or keep updated on his NARCh experience on twitter@kincintheslot