The Blomberg sisters win gold at the World Ball Hockey Championships

The Timmins duo played on the Canadian national team in a tournament

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Team Canada won the gold medal at the just-concluded 2022 Women’s World Ball Hockey Championships, with the roster of sisters Carley and Alicia Blomberg of Timmins.

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The tournament is supervised by the ISBHF (International Street and Ball Hockey Federation) and takes place every two years. This year, it was Canada’s turn to host, and Laval, Que., hosted the tournament, which took place June 22-27.

“It was wonderful,” Carley told the Daily Press.

“Because it was such a short event, getting together with these girls and meeting new people, and having experiences with new people, in such a short time, is just amazing.”

Team Canada played seven games in seven days to win the gold medal. They faced the traditional hockey strongholds of the United States, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, while Great Britain and Lebanon rounded out the field.

As with most international hockey tournaments, the roster should gel quickly.

“Because it was hosted in Canada, we actually only had two full days together before the tournament. If it was in Europe, we probably would have had a little more time, just because of the travel and everything,” Carley said.

“So we didn’t have a lot of time, but we did Zoom meetings and things like that as a team to get to know each other.”

It was the first tournament experience for Carley, who recently wrapped up her college career with the OUA champion Brock University Badgers on the ice.

Her sister Alicia, nine years her senior, had a lot of tournament experience to share with her, and that was the main reason she got involved in the off-ice game.

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“I started because of my sister. She plays in the Ottawa area and she played for Team Canada, which really opened my eyes to the possibility of doing the same.

But it’s not like you can just get into a national team.

“To get to that level, you have to compete at nationals, and I even competed at nationals last year in Calgary with a team representing Ontario.

Team Canada staff attend the national tournament and basically select the roster.

Although it is much the same game as ice hockey in its basic structure, there are of course fundamental differences.

“It’s quite different. In ball hockey, you run and when you stop running, you don’t slip. So you always have to move your feet.

Offsides also work differently than ice hockey. In ball hockey, when the attacking team brings the ball across the opponent’s blue line, they can then use the entire half of the playing surface as their offensive zone.

Even a player’s gear setup is different, especially in the footwear department.

“It’s all over the place. Some girls wear basketball shoes, some wear indoor soccer shoes, and I was actually wearing tennis shoes. I don’t know if it was the best idea, but it worked for me.

The game is played in a standard hockey rink, but without ice and a specialized hard plastic tile surface, which Carley says can cause some pretty nasty “burns” when skin passes through it in a fall.

“Because you’re playing on a tiled surface, you don’t want to slip, so you need a shoe that has a grippy sole.”

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Lots of girls wore elbow pads, but Carley didn’t, although she said that would be a good idea.

“If you’re smart, you’ll wear shin guards. They make special ball hockey shin guards that are smaller than regular shin guards.

Gloves, as in playing lacrosse, are worn, and women’s international play requires helmets and full face shields.

There is also a specialized ball. Carley said it’s a lot harder than a typical bright orange road hockey ball, and experienced players can really put some interesting spins and curves on a shot.

As far as the defense is concerned, there are still a lot of contacts.

“The game of ball hockey is actually quite physical. I would compare it to ice hockey in that sense.

This physique is something she and her teammates fully experienced during the tournament.

“It was definitely a battle. A lot of players came out quite broken, but we have a lot of very tough girls in our squad, and a lot of them have struggled with injuries.

She can be included in this group of warriors.

“Actually I played the last game with a broken big toe, which really sucked, but that’s what you have to do.”

That toe broke late in the semi-final match, a 3-2 win over Slovakia, when she was aggressively kicked on the foot.

“I knew it was broken the moment it happened because it hurt so much. It was really difficult to get through the next game.

The gold medal final pitted Canada against the Czech Republic, a team they lost to (4-3 in a shootout) in the round robin portion of the tournament.

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The Czechs started strong, with two goals in the first five minutes of the match, but Canada responded with two of their own midway through the period and scored the go-ahead goal in the third period to emerge 3-2 victorious.

“We weren’t sure what to expect. Due to the COVID years, we hadn’t really seen the development of other countries,” Carley said.

“I have to hand it to our coaches, they’ve been amazing at bringing the team together and focusing everyone, and making everyone feel their talents were needed and special in their own way.”

“We also had a few spare players on the roster which was lucky because some of the girls had big injuries. One girl broke her elbow and another tore her knee.

Carley said winning a world championship gold medal with her sister was an incredible experience.

“My sister was always my biggest role model growing up, and I always looked up to her for all the work she did to be successful in her life.

“Playing alongside someone you look up to is just, you can’t quite describe it. Just a lot of joy and happiness.

It was a very patriotic moment.

“It was really cool to hold the Canadian flag in front of the fans. I don’t think I’ve ever had that experience singing O Canada so proudly.

Carley hopes to see the game of competitive ball hockey expand and develop further, as leagues are hard to find, depending on where you live.

“In the summer, I actually go to Ottawa just to play competitively.”

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The major centres, Ottawa and Toronto have solid foundations, while Quebec has several major leagues. Carley said that where she resides in the Niagara region, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for girls, and so she sometimes plays co-ed games, which is fun, but that’s just not not the same thing.

She says the Team Canada coaching staff made a very valid point.

“The game of ball hockey is much more accessible than ice hockey, so it just opens the door for people to participate in the sport across the country. You don’t need a lot of equipment, you just need a pole and running shoes.

While her sister Alicia lives in the Ottawa area, Carley now coaches ice hockey at the Fort Erie International Academy, which is a stone’s throw from the border and Buffalo, New York.

” It was great. I’m very excited and very lucky to work in an environment that makes me very happy. I look forward to the upcoming season,” she said.

She leads a women’s under-18 ‘AA’ team, but since this is the program’s first year, the team will have to wait a full season before they can officially join the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA).

Players from across Canada will arrive on campus from mid-August to late August, and they’ll take their talents across the border, as they won’t be in any official league.

“For next year, we’re just going to do window displays, in the States,” Carley said.

“This past year has been about building from the ground up, getting a roster, and establishing everything else at this school.”

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