Niagara-on-the-Lake teen Cohen Alexander’s hopes of playing for Junior Team Canada (JTC) in the World Ball Hockey Federation (WBHF) U14 championships in Bratislava later this month have been dashed.
Jamie Robillard of the Ontario Ball Hockey Association says the world championships have been cancelled due to the situation in Ukraine. With Slovakia situated next to the southwest border of that country, it wasn’t feasible for the tournament to proceed.
“To the best of my knowledge,” Robillard tells The Local, “a conference call was held in early April. A number of teams were starting to decide to pull out, and it became clear that it didn’t make sense to hold the tournament. A consensus was reached to just cancel it altogether.”
It’s the third straight year the WBHF championships have been cancelled, the first two because of the pandemic. Robillard explains that the decision affects men’s and women’s national teams from U14 through U22, as well as at the masters level, who were all planning to compete.
“The decision had to be made early enough,” Robillard adds, “because of travel plans and such. At the beginning of the war, a lot of the action was on the western side of Ukraine, and many refugees had begun to move into Slovakia. In fact, a lot of the potential accommodations were beginning to be used to house refugees.”
In addition, Robillard recalls that many parents of the younger JTC members were calling their coaches to express concerns about sending their children to play in the tournament.
The tournament has been rescheduled for next summer in the Czech Republic. Rob Alexander, Cohen’s father, says JTC officials have promised his son that he will have a spot on the team for the 2023 tournament.
Robillard marvels at how life has changed for some of the older ball hockey players who are still waiting to represent their country on the international stage.
“There is one woman who was selected for the team in 2019,” explains Robillard. “She got pregnant and had to give up her spot for 2020. When it was cancelled, and she had had the baby, she asked if she could get her spot back for 2021. Then that got cancelled, she got pregnant again, and had to give up her spot for this year. But she said she’s stopping at two kids and wants to come back in 2023.”
At 14 years old now, Cohen won’t be at such a momentous point in his life when next year’s tournament is played.
In the meantime, the Crossroads Public School student has returned to his team that plays out of the Ballhockey.com facility in St. Catharines, where Cohen has made a name for himself by playing with older teammates.
Last weekend, Cohen suited up for both the U16 and U19 Ballhockey.com teams at the annual Walter Gretzky Street Hockey Charity Tournament held in Brantford. The two squads went undefeated through 13 games over two days, taking home double gold for their efforts.
The WBHF championships had originally been scheduled for June 27 to July 3 in the Slovakian capital.