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Labrador West ball hockey players have stellar results in national junior championships


COQUITLAM, B.C. —

MIKE POWER

SPECIAL TO THE LABRADOR VOICE

Considering the fact that ball hockey is still a developing sport in Labrador West, the strides that young players have made in recent years are nothing short of amazing.

For several years, players from the area have been named to provincial teams and, in some cases, have gone on to represent Canada at international competitions. Nick Sexton, Brody Chatman and Mark Hiller played for Canada in the Czech Republic in 2018 and there is no doubt they had a big influence on the sport in the area. The players were also part of the team that won national gold as well.

This year, Labrador West had 14 players on various provincial teams at the National Junior Ball Hockey Championships in Coquitlam, BC.

Brian Barnett of Labrador City has been involved with ball hockey for years, as a player and also a coach, most recently coaching the younger players.

“The fact that fourteen players from here made the nationals shows they are doing the right things for training and practices to get ready for the tryouts,” Barnett said, adding that the young players are improving because there are more and more young people taking part in the sport.

He says it’s hoped that next year, under-11 and 13-year-olds will be able to participate in the travelling.

The local group is also working with the NL Ball Hockey Association to have camps in the area.

Popular sport

Barnett says it’s a bit of a chicken and the egg scenario: the sport in Labrador West is growing in part because of the success players are having making the provincial and national teams, sparking interest in new players coming to the sport.

He says that many coaches over the years must be commended for their dedication week after week and year after year to advance the sport to the current level, and points out that female ball hockey is thriving as well in the area.

One local player, Reggie Pike of Labrador City, had a particularly strong showing at nationals, where he was named the most valuable player for his age group.

Barnett, who attended the BC competition, says Pike had an outstanding tournament and the award was a great accomplishment.

“He was the best player for his age group, he was named captain of his team and his selection of MVP was from about 180 players who were eligible. A well-deserved award,” says Barnett.

Barnett points out that four players were also asked to play on the men’s provincial team: Tyler Hollett, Andrew Dewland, Mitchell Normore and Alex Peddle.

Barnett is confident that ball hockey is going to continue improving in the area. He says children are starting younger but he says one of the biggest hurdles is getting arena floor time to practice and play. Before travelling to provincials, local teams had floor time for just one week in Labrador City and two in Wabush - he says if the players get more floor time, they’ll have even better results.

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