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GSBHL looking to learn from the mistakes of ball hockey leagues past
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Corey Langella and his Greater Sudbury Ball Hockey League brethren did not introduce the sport to the local community when the current edition of the GSBHL was launched in 2017.

As most every Sudburian is well aware, street hockey dates back pretty much as long as any of us can remember, a mainstay on so many outdoor playground rinks for years, played on skates or on boots, and often carried over to the spring and summer as kids of all ages simply transitioned to the nearest concrete surface.

Rather, what Langella and his band of merry men have done is to try and learn from the mistakes of many previous incarnations of the move to an organized structure for ball hockey in summer – again, a concept that dates back at least as far as the seventies with games played in June – July – August in local arenas once the ice was removed.

This existing group has recently been rewarded, even further, for their efforts, notified that they will play host to the Ontario B/C and Masters Ball Hockey Championships on the weekend of August 16th to the 18th.

And to think that it all started with a particular vision of what the local loop should look like.

“I wanted to make our league more of a community,” explained Langella this week as his crew met to tackle the various administrative components involved with staging a provincial playdown. “I feel like we have succeeded in doing that since the time we’ve been launched.”

“Even with the new teams, by the end of the season, everybody seems to know everybody. You see the respect towards one another and I like that. It’s something that we pride ourselves in.”

Despite that nasty Covid period throwing something of a curveball at the entire world of organized sports, the GSBHL has benefitted from a number of positive steps in the past seven years.

Numbers are growing, year over year, with a youth division now available, and local entries have spread their wings to venture off to tournament play in southern Ontario given the affiliation of the northern Ontario crew with the OBHF (Ontario Ball Hockey Federation).

That, and some expansion on the administrative side of things, created the genesis for this bid to bring some 25 teams or so up to the nickel city, possibly for the first time ever in this sport, for a tournament at an all-Ontario level.

“The talks really started last year and got serious towards the end of the season,” said Langella. “Up until last year, a lot of the responsibilities for the league fell solely on me. Now that we have the personnel in place and the structure, organizationally, we were able to put together a bid.”

This represents something of a full circle for a young man whose family name is synonymous with the sport of hockey in Sudbury.

“I can remember coming home from school, throwing my school bag down and heading out to play street hockey, whenever we could, with the neighbourhood kids,” noted David Berthelot Jr, the son of the man (David Sr) who was the driving force behind the Onaping Falls Huskies entry into the Northern Ontario Bantam AAA Hockey League in the late nineties.

“It was day in and day out, just something that everyone did.”

Growing up in Levack and initially taking to the streets of the scenic mining town, Berthelot would transition to an indoor setting at elementary schools in the region, bringing together friends who shared this common interest. In the summer came other options.

“At that time, Play On Hockey was a big thing, the three on three tournaments,” noted the 32 year old who provides a key helping hand to Langella and his committee, despite the fact that the two only met when the GSBHL was re-introduced just a few years ago. “That’s where I met some of the guys who had played on a national stage.”

“I’m a big boots on the ground kind of guy,” added Berthelot Jr. “When I am around (work takes him away for two week intervals at a time), I’m at the rinks.”

Thankfully, both share the same dreams of what this provincial championship could mean to the city, with Berthelot even suggesting that hosting a national level tournament should not be out of the question down the road.

“The feedback from our teams that participated in provincials was you go there, you play and you leave,” said Langella. “We feel an obligation to set the standard that it’s not just a ball hockey tournament, that it’s an experience; that coming to Sudbury for this tournament is something different.”

And that’s just one more reason the current edition of the GSBHL stands apart from previous attempts to grow ball hockey in Greater Sudbury.

Northern Hockey Academy