There will be a new game in town for New West kids this spring.
A group of local residents has teamed up to form the new New Westminster Minor Ball Hockey Association. Coed teams in the U9, U11, U13, U15 and U17 divisions will be playing out of Moody Park Arena.
“The registration drive has been very successful,” said Angela Yadav, the association’s president. “We've established wait lists for additional teams in nearly every division from U9 to U17, and we currently have over 180 members signed up – a testament to the community's excitement for our inaugural season.”
The association also plans to partner with the city’s parks and recreation department on Try It ball hockey programs for the U7 division this spring.
It's keen about providing an opportunity for kids to play ball hockey in New Westminster.
“It's a great sport,” said Jeff Scheffel, the association’s vice-president. “It's a great opportunity. It's truly a local option.”
Scheffel, a New West resident who has played and coached ball hockey for years, said a men’s league is offered in New Westminster, but there isn’t a local league for kids.
“This is finally like a truly local option where you can play your practices at Moody Park, you can play your home games at Moody Park,” he said.
According to the NWMBHA, Queensborough kids have usually played in Richmond (with the Richmond South Delta Minor Ball Hockey Association) and kids on the mainland side of the bridge have played with the Burnaby-based Metro Minor Ball Hockey Association.
Instead of travelling to other cities to play ball hockey, Scheffel said the goal has been to give kids a chance to play ball hockey in New West. He knows of many kids who have dropped out of ball hockey because of the “significant hurdle” related to travelling to Vancouver and Burnaby arenas for practices.
“There's definitely an interest in ball hockey in New Westminster,” he told the Record. “We want to just foster that and make it a more like local option and to bring down the barriers of access to the sport. Because it is a low-cost sport compared to ice hockey.”
Yadav said travelling to other cities, including Burnaby and Vancouver, often in rush hour, for ball hockey practices and games has been a deterrent for some families.
“If the city of New West can support minor soccer, minor lacrosse, minor ice hockey, softball and baseball, why can't support its own minor ball hockey, right?” she said. “I mean, we are big enough.”
Yadav said the association’s goal is to make ball hockey more accessible to local kids.
“If you want to play ball hockey, all you need a pair of running shoes. If you can run, you can play,” said Yadav, who was born and raised in New West. “There are no rly-morning practices, and you can play with your friends.”
Interest in the program has been strong, with Try Ball Hockey events planned for Feb. 11 and 18 already fully booked, with more than 80 kids having signed up. Organizers are working to try and add additional sessions so they can accommodate as many children as possible from the wait list.
Despite interest from local families and support from the city and some ball hockey associations, the New Westminster Minor Ball Hockey Association’s efforts to join the league have been blocked thus far.
In a Jan. 29 memo to its members, the BC Ball Hockey Association stated it had reviewed the New Westminster Ball Hockey Association’s application for membership and had decided to deny its request for membership in the league. It stated that the decision was made in accordance with Section 3.3. of its rules and regulations: When a new league applies to join the BCBHA, in an existing member league market, the existing league or leagues will have to approve the new application prior to acceptance into the BC BHA.”
“Historically, the New Westminster area has been served by the Metro Ball Hockey Association over the last 25 years,” said the memo.
In its memo, the BC Ball Hockey Association said the New West association has decided to continue for the 2024 season.
“While we support their commitment to growing the sport, we must provide clarity to our membership about what this means for them. At present, NWMBHA is considered an unsanctioned league and are not a member of the BC Ball Hockey Association or Canada Ball Hockey Association,” said the memo. “As such, this league will not be eligible for interlock games with our minor member associations.”
The memo goes on to say that NWMBHA members are ineligible to participate in any sanctioned events, including the provincials or junior nationals. Players, however can register for “sanctioned and unsanctioned leagues” and retain their eligibility for all sanctioned tournaments and programs.
In a subsequent email to the Record, Yadav said New Westminster Ball Hockey Association teams will be playing games against other minor ball hockey associations.
“We're planning a U9 Jamboree for late April and are coordinating tournaments with other associations to ensure a robust season of play,” she said.
Yadav and Scheffel, who both live in New West, were among a handful of local residents who decided in late 2023 it was time to start a New Westminster-based ball hockey association. Both lawyers, Yadav and Scheffel told the Record they contacted BC Ball Hockey about the process for starting a New West-based club – including incorporating under Societies Act, arranging for floor times from the city and opening up registration – and did as they had been instructed.
“We're trying to provide a service to the community of New Westminster that doesn't currently exist. … We're providing an option that is more reasonable for New Westminster families,” Scheffel said. “New Westminster services all of the other minor youth sports – they have their own ice hockey association, they have their own lacrosse association, they have their own baseball, soccer. Why not ball hockey? There is definitely interest in the sport here. We just want to continue to foster that interest locally.”
Yadav said the local group is committed to seeking a collaborative relationship with BCBHA and to getting clarity on how it will be sanctioned.
“We are navigating through these complexities and remain focused on advocating for our members and the sport,” she said.
A delegation from New Westminster Ball Hockey Association appeared before city council at Monday’s meeting, outlining their plans to create opportunities for kids to ball hockey in New West.
“I think ball hockey is an awesome sport to play,” said one young player. “And its super fun.”
Council members expressed support for providing opportunities for kids to play ball hockey in New West and suggested they would be willing to do what they can to support the association.
For more information and registration, visit the New Westminster Minor Ball Hockey Association’s website at www.nwmbha.com.