2014 was the year that would see minor ball hockey change throughout the world. The World Ball Hockey Federation (WBHF) announced that they would host the U20 and U18 championships in Budapest, Hungary.
With past experience at the international level of play the National Ball Hockey Association of Canada would see its Junior Team Canada (JTC) spearheaded by Stephen Dockerty took on the position as High Performance Director, a decision that would see the start of an exciting new program that younger age ball hockey players could experience many years.
Dockerty’s first step was to work with Steve Rumsey, President to appoint the staffs to oversee the teams. In the fall of 2013, the processed began with the naming of the two General Managers, Mauro Cugini (U20) and Scott Jacobi (U18) who have both been with the sport for over ten years. From this point on the rest of the staff was selected and put in place, rounding out the U20 staff would see the announcement of Barry Greer as Head Coach, Matthew Paul and Harvey Boutilier as Assistant Coaches and the U18 staff would add Chris Carr and Tyler McClure as assistants to Jacobi’s staff who doubled as the Head Coach. To round out the staff the teams added Dr. Andi Jones, Amanda Spence (Registered Massage Therapist), Kevin Bailie (Goalie Consultant) and Boutilier doubled as Equipment Manager/Trainer for both teams.
As the players gathered to depart from Toronto for a training camp, everyone new this was the start of a strong program that would change the lives of many Canadian youths for future years.
The team arrived would arrive in Rome the next day and later to Bologna to spend the night. The next day was spent in Villach, Austria for more team building en route to the final destination and host for the week, Budapest, Hungary.
Along with the long flights and bus ride and some of the trip overseas was gruelling with practice in day three. The weather was a battle in Budapest as well. There was a heat wave that ran through the area, and we were right in the middle of it for pre tournament practices and camp.
Traveling from Canada was one thing, but being with both Canadian teams was a wonderful experience and all of the group could quickly see how different this part of Europe was to the rest of the world.
Arriving in Budapest, the main square where the team would spend much of their down time as the team was ten minutes away from stores, restaurants and shopping malls and the arena was about a 15 minute drive from the hotel.
This was a wonderful backdrop to the tournament, but all the players and staff were aware that their main focus was to win gold!
These players were selected based on their ability, speed, sportsmanship, and discipline. We sat down with players and emphasized the need to be good ambassadors for the National Ball Hockey Association of Canada (NBHAC) and Canada, the willingness to be a good team mate and accept whatever role the coaches asked them to fill and finally to embrace the opportunity to travel to a different county.
The day was Thursday, June 26 and would never be forgotten by these young ball hockey players took to the floor. This was a day they reflect on where they were from, the years they played ball hockey, the first time they shot an orange ball at a net – this was the day wearing the red & white felt so much more to them.
When Team Canada arrived in Budapest on June 23, most of the players were awestruck. It seemed surreal, this was the game they had played in most of their lives in their driveways, streets with parents, siblings and friends, but this was the world stage and the team were the favorites as defending champions.
These teams had prepared for minicamp and preparation so there was a comfort level and similar atmosphere with high tempo practices and scrimmages. It was those practices that set the stage for the World Championships.
So on Sunday, June 29 after completing the round robin portion of the tournaments undefeated the teams knew they still had that one goal to achieve which was to win gold.
It would be hard to imagine for Team Canada to play a more flawless game than it did against Slovakia (U18) and United States of America (U20), but Canada proved to be much quicker and more opportunistic Canadians.
It was going to be small things that determined the outcome of this championship games. Who controlled the tempo? who would be more disciplined? who would capitalize on opportunities? who would get that big save? There wasn't much separating the two teams but those small, little details that would be the difference.
Team Canada's offense was well chronicled throughout the tournament getting balanced scoring from all of the forwards which was complemented well with a group of athletic ball moving defensemen and the backbone of every championship team would be solid goaltending. This team seemed to be able to play any style of game, but it was ball possession and team defence which propelled the team to the 2014 World Ball Hockey Federation Championship with a convincing 11-2 (U18) and 6-0 (U20) victories.
It was a moment that was a long time coming for this group of hard working Canadians. The biggest thing this year was the hard work and our hunger to win. These were teams where everything resolved around teamwork and everyone came together, and that's why it happened.
Moments after the conclusion of the game this tight-knit dressing room that seemingly spent every minute of the day together realized they had just accomplished their goal.
Shortly after the final horn had sounded, the teams came together for the closing ceremonies and team captains were presented our 'holy grail' and this will be a moment in time not soon forgotten by the team. The tournament and championship will be frozen in time, but the memories and friendships they have made will last a lifetime.
After the celebration on the floor the team exchanged jerseys, tracksuits, and other souvenirs before departing for Rome and what was to be quite the bus ride and day of celebration of this tremendous effort.
To the boys, their families, friends and to all of our supporters, we thank you.
THE CUP IS STAYING WHERE IT BELONGS......CANADA