By RYAN COOKE
Special to the Advertiser
For more than 25 years, the Botwood Men’s Ball Hockey League was an integral part of the community.
Over a span of decades, the league was a summer pastime of many local standout hockey players, from Roger Elliott and Greg Byrne, to current Cataracts Andre Gill, Michael Brent, and Mike Sibley.
Every night of the week, the stadium was buzzing. Even when your team wasn’t playing, odds were you were at the stadium watching. The youth of the town would come out in full force, watching in anticipation of their sixteenth birthday, when they could finally join the league.
However, interest eventually faded, and the league was left without somebody to run it. It eventually folded after the summer of 2007, and players were forced to either give up the game, or head to Bishop’s Falls or Grand Falls-Windsor to join leagues.
But now, four years after going under, the league is back.
The task will be taken on by Jason Jeans and Marc Lyver, both of whom are from Botwood and are quite familiar with the old league.
“Growing up, all we looked forward to was turning 16 so we could play in the Men’s Ball Hockey League,” said Jeans. “And then it wasn’t there anymore.”
Jeans said he and Lyver had the youth of the town in mind when deciding to start the league up again.
“It gives the younger people something to do,” he said. “You finish the summer program when you’re 16, and then there’s nothing for those kids after that.”
He said he believes it’s important to the community, because in a small place like Botwood, it’s easy to get into trouble when you run out of things to do.
“What else is there to do in Botwood? Drugs, drinking… This brings something more to do to the town.”
He said the league has been met with a warm reception from all age groups, including many of the older players who were big names in the league long before it shut down four years ago.
With enough interest to easily build three teams, Jeans he said he and Lyver are content, and hope they will attract more people over time.
Charging only half the registration fee as other leagues in the area, he said they’ve already drawn in several people living in Grand Falls-Windsor who would rather travel to Botwood to play.
“I’m not looking to make any money in the league,” Jeans said. “If we can break even, I’m dandy.”
He said that while he expected a hasty reaction from the town, he was extremely pleased with how quickly the town got on board with the idea.
“Me and (Mayor) Jerry (Dean) sat down and had a conversation about it, and he said it’s something that the town probably does need to get people back into the stadium. They spent the millions of dollars on it, so why not use it?”
He said he understands why people might be skeptical and not want to get involved right away, fearing that it won’t be around any longer than one year. However, he says he and Lyver are dedicated to sticking with it.
“I can understand why people might think that, but my commitment is to make it last.”
The pair plan on having a few practice runs before kicking off the season with a draft on May 21, and running through the summer into mid-July or early August. They plan on doing their best to avoid conflicts with softball, as both Jeans and Lyver are active with that league as well.
If you are interested in joining the league as a player or a sponsor, you can contact Jeans at home at 257-4108, or join the “Botwood Men’s Ball Hockey” group on Facebook.