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South Simcoe Ball Hockey League on verge of cancelling season

“We don’t want to break all these kid’s hearts,” says South Simcoe Ball Hockey League President Marco Mariani. The league's fall season is in doubt with no indoor facility to play in.

Bradford ball hockey players may miss out on the fall season if the South Simcoe Ball Hockey League doesn't find a facility for games this year.

Right now, the league isn’t able to book floor time in Bradford for its yearly fall season, despite having a record number of kids signed up with 70—the most the league has ever had for its fall season is 65.

“We don’t have any floor time to play because other organizations, that are profitable, are coming in and taking our floor time,” said league President Marco Mariani. “We had been losing kids to the profitable outdoor ball hockey program, but it’s now shut down, which is helping us with our growth again. So they had been signing up to play indoors.”

The not-for-profit league runs two times per year, in the fall and summer seasons. The summer season is the bigger league with the fall season being Bradford-specific. Both leagues are focused on development.

“The fall season is only played in Bradford because they have the only dry pad facility to play indoors,” said Mariani.

The league had a contract pre-COVID-19 with the Town of Bradford to play at the Bradford and District Community Centre.

“When you have a contract, you’re automatically guaranteed that allocated floor time for the following season, unless you specify otherwise,” explained Mariani. “Prior to COVID, we were playing on Tuesdays— with Barrie’s programs and hockey season, it’s a small program and requires just two or three hours on a Tuesday night. We had to cancel our season due to COVID, but other people took our time slot.”

This year, when the municipality reached out to organizations to book floor times, Mariani says he never received the email and when he connected with the town on the topic he came to the conclusion that he must not have received it because his email was too full.

“Now, we only have Sundays we can play,” he said. “We did a trial run on Sundays pre-COVID to see if we would have more growth, and we lost all our numbers. That’s why we do Tuesdays, but now we have no floor time. It’s all profitable organizations in a town-run facility making money. Not-for-profit organizations should have the first dibs with facilities because they’re just trying to develop the youth.”

Without being able to book floor time, the season is in doubt and Mariani is in the process of looking at options with the Board of Directors before making the official decision to cancel the season.

“We don’t want to break all these kids’ hearts,” he said. “This year, because the outdoor ball hockey program folded, we’re at registration numbers that would be our biggest fall season. We could almost double that too because we haven’t even started promoting it yet without the floor time to guarantee a season. People who are interested in joining the league are calling us with questions and we can’t even answer them right now.”

Given both the lack of time slots available and the shape the Bradford and District Community Centre is in, Mariani is fearful that this could hurt any potential growth of the fall league in Bradford.

“That arena is very run down, it’s one of the main reasons we’re struggling to grow in Bradford, it’s just so poorly maintained,” he said. “You can drive to Newmarket and have top-of-the-line facilities or go up to Innisfil.”

Mariani says when the South Simcoe Ball Hockey League first got started in Bradford over seven years ago, it had over 300 kids registered for the summer season in Bradford alone. “We were going to provincials and winning championships, we were very successful,” he said. “However, the facility is driving the registration down. We’ve asked on several occasions if we can get a pad at the leisure centre or if they can take the ice out of Bob Fallis Centre. But they won’t do it for us.”

BradfordToday reached out to the town for comment but did not respond in time of publication.