BAY ROBERTS, NL — Bay Roberts is preparing for one of the biggest street hockey tournaments the town has seen in recent history.
Following the announcement that the annual Play On! ball hockey tournament would no longer be continuing in 2018, Ian Flynn, director of sport and recreation for the Town of Bay Roberts, saw an opportunity to keep the love of street hockey going, despite the end of one of Canada’s bigger ball hockey tournaments. Wasting no time, Flynn gathered together with other like-minded individuals to plan for Light the Lamp – a new street hockey tournament hosted in Bay Roberts, coming June 23.
“Basically, last week, we saw on social media that Play On! wasn’t going ahead this year – they pulled the plug across Canada, and through the jigs and the reels I saw a lot of people posting about how disappointed they were. I sat back, and immediately the wheels in my head started to turn. ‘There’s an opportunity here,’ I said, and made some phone calls Monday night,” Flynn explained of the process behind getting Light the Lamp started. “We got a little committee together and got together the next day at 6:00, and by 8:00 we had a tournament, a name, a date, and a location in mind. From there, we decided to get the idea out there before anyone else got the same idea, and from there it just snowballed. Over the next two hours we had people reaching out through social media from Gander and Clarenville asking about registration and all those things.”
Flynn said the reception to the tournament has been a whirlwind ever since the initial social media post, with businesses and sponsors coming to the committee looking for information on how to get on board, and plenty of interested parties hoping to get their teams registered before all spaces are filled.
While Flynn and the rest of the committee hope to replicate the vibe of the Play On! tournaments as much as possible, one of the major differences Flynn noted was the age demographic. While Play On! saw player ages ranging from young children to adults, Light the Lamp hopes to focus on the youth, aiming for players aged 15 and under, with both boys and girls divisions.
Not only is Flynn excited to see the sport come to Bay Roberts, but the town of Bay Roberts is excited to see the influx of people such a tournament will bring to the community. Flynn explained if the two-day tournament caps out, they’re looking at approximately 180-200 teams, each with around nine players, resulting in roughly 3,000-5,000 people spending a weekend in Bay Roberts if all goes according to plan. These numbers translate into roughly 600 games of ball hockey played over a two-day period.
“This is a major undertaking, so that’s why we’re starting our registration process early. We figure once we cap out on our divisions, we’ll close early enough, and we’ll have plenty of time to plan everything out and put it in place,” Flynn said. “As a recreation director, and a sports guy in general, this is what I live for, you know? But it’s not only that – local businesses, especially hotels and restaurants, are going to benefit from this majorly. I called over to one hotel and they told me they’re already booked up for the 23rd ever since I made the announcement, so people are already planning ahead, so it’s really great for the economic side of the town as well. The business community is very excited.”
Unlike many other such tournaments, Light the Lamp is run and organized by the Town of Bay Roberts, as opposed to being a privately-owned event. This means, as Flynn explained to The Compass, the majority of money made from the event will go right back into the community’s recreation programs, back into the tournament itself, and into improving recreational facilities in Bay Roberts.
The committee is currently looking into some locations to host the multitude of games being played during the weekend. Streets in use will be closed off for the tournament, and although no plans have been set in stone as of this week, Flynn and the committee have their eyes set on Eric Dawe Drive, following news that they have permission to make use of Amalgamated Academy’s parking lot. Additionally, the Wilbur Sparkes Recreation Complex is also on the committee’s radar.
“I’ve been saying now, it’s not just a street hockey tournament anymore, it’s gonna be a big event – it’s going to have a festival feel to it,” Flynn said. “We’re not too far into this side of things yet, but we’re hoping to get some live entertainment there, and some food vendors have already reached out to us too, so it’s going to be more than just ball hockey going on there, for sure.”
The eager volunteer community in the town of Bay Roberts is also something Flynn says will be a major help when the time comes. He estimates a need for approximately 200 volunteers throughout the weekend, on top of the 40-50 students he will have on staff as recreation director, but noted with such a strong set of volunteers in the area, he anticipates no problem getting the help the town will need.
Although there is still plenty of time before the tournament itself gets underway, the committee hopes to open up registration on Thursday, Feb. 8. Teams looking to take part in the Light the Lamp tournament can visit www.lightthelamp2018.com to find registration forms.