Masters set for fun in the sun at unique outdoor event
The 2018 Masters World Ball Hockey Championships promises to be a unique event that “people are always going to remember”, when Bermuda plays host to the event from September 26 to 30.
Pete Brodsky, the Bermuda head coach, explained that the event is usually held indoors, and that this year’s tournament, to be staged on the picturesque North Shore setting of the rink at Pembroke Community Club, is going be a real eye-opener for the teams.
As for the home team’s chances, Brodsky is confident that his side will make an impact on the event, which is effectively the world championship for over-40s.
“We’re really excited, this is great,” Canadian Brodsky said. “We’ve been away to a lot of tournaments before, but we’ve always thought how great it would be to host one here and we never had the chance, so the guys are really pumped. The home-town field’s going to be great, so it’s going to be nice to play in front of our fans and friends.
“I’ve been in Bermuda for 21 years. When I first started, it was just informal, the rink was half the size and we just played for fun on the weekends.
“In 2001, we heard about the world championships and went to the first one and have gone to every one since, Bermuda has sent a team and it’s evolved from there.
“We’ve gone to tournaments around the world. Before we didn’t really have a full-time coach, and now we’ve decided to take it a little more seriously.
“The Masters is relatively newer for us, but we’re one of the older teams at the worlds, so it’s half the same guys anyway, so it probably helps us a bit.
I think we’re going to be competitive. When we go away a lot times, you don’t get everyone to go, but we’re going to be competitive.
“We’re going to face some really good competition. Some of the guys we’re playing have played top-level world championships and probably either won or contended for a gold medal. They’re over 40, just like we are. It’s similar to the Rugby Classic, in that you’ve got guys that have played at the top of the game, who just happen to be a little older, but they’re still great players.”
Like many of the players on the team, Brodsky’s background is in ice hockey and he is grateful that the ball-hockey scene in Bermuda has given him a new sporting lease of life.
“I played ice hockey growing up,” he said. “The only time we’d play ball hockey, with running shoes instead of skates, we’d play in summer with street hockey, when a car would come and you’d have to move the net! So I never played it formally until I came here and even when I first came it was informal, and when we first went to the worlds was when it got serious.
“We took a lot of what we had from ice hockey and just translated it to this, so a lot of us never played ball hockey until we got here, but it’s a very similar concept.
“I never really played it till I got here, but I’m glad I did! We got to travel the world and I probably never would have got to do that as an ice hockey player.
“The guys to look out for I’d say are our captain Chris Coleman. We’re mostly Canadians and he’s American, so we rib him a little. He’s been our captain for a long time and he’s a top-level guy who’s played in the Worlds a lot. Chris Merritt’s going to be playing forward. He scores a lot of goals, always has, and brings a lot of energy, speed and skill. Both those guys are great leaders, by example, and in the dressing room.
“We’ve got a lot of solid defencemen and Yan Leclerc has been a world-class goalie for a long time.
“We play some teams who are higher calibre than us in the Worlds and we’ve had some close games against those teams, and I’ll be completely honest, a lot of it’s on him. He’s top-notch. He could play on most of the top-level teams in the world, where a lot of us wouldn’t make those teams.”
Bermuda are well into their preparations for the event — which they will need to be to face some of the best veteran players in the world.
“There’s a lot of talent coming down here and for us to compete we need good systems, good fitness and working as a unit and a team,” Brodsky said. “We’re less of a team of individuals and we have to play as a team.
“Canada, the Czechs, and the Slovaks are pretty much top of the world, but there’s a number of teams, like Greece, Italy and Portugal, who have a lot of guys who are really solid.
“Some of them are living in Canada and those guys play top-level ball hockey. And the US is a big team as well. There are going to be some really top-level guys.”
The opposition players are sure to be impressed by the ocean view of the rink, which sits next door to Admiralty House Park.
“The first thing [the players will notice] is the ocean,” Brodsky said. “Usually these [tournaments] are held indoors. The rink’s not quite full size, just because of the limitations of the space, so guys are going to be on you quicker and there’s going to be a little less room to move around, but the backdrop’s unbelievable and a lot of the stuff that we’ve heard from the teams who are coming who have seen the aerial pictures, they’ve never seen anything like it.
“Usually you’re inside, which is great, but here you have the elements, and the outdoors and the view and I think that’s something unique that people are going to always remember. I don’t think it’s ever happened before.
“It’s going to be great, for people to come down, it’s a nice atmosphere, you get outside and watch these top-level guys play. And for the level people that are coming, obviously it’s not as big a sport as some other sports in the world, but for this sport itself, you’re getting some top-level talent and any time we can get that here, like in the Rugby Classic and triathlon, not comparing ourselves to those, but some of the guys coming are top level in the world or were at one time, so it’s exciting.
“I’ve been more focused on coaching the team itself, but I know from the guys who have been in touch with them, that they’re really excited.
“A lot of times you go on these trips and your wife or girlfriend says: ‘You go on without me and have fun’. Here. it’s got everybody excited and it’s a beautiful place where they probably never would have been.
“If you live in Czechoslovakia, you would probably don’t think about coming somewhere like Bermuda. Then you start hearing about it and seeing the pictures and people get really excited about the event outside of the hockey.
“The hockey’s obviously important, but this isn’t the open worlds, this is for the over-40s, so there’s obviously the family side to it too. From what we hear, people are super-pumped to come. And if we can host some more tournaments, not even on this scale because they like to move this around, that would be great and it would be good for the island.”
And Brodsky is hopeful that more young Bermudians will be keen to try out the sport once they see what’s on offer at these championships.
“Something like this, if people come out and see it. If you’re a kid and you see a sport that you haven’t seen before because it’s not as big, you see it and hopefully that encourages them to come out. Hopefully the kids programme can grow and they’ll have more entrants coming in.”