By past board member David Blyth
2015 marks the 40th year that the League has been in operation. The following is a brief history of the League over these 40 years.
In 1969 the City of Toronto Department of Parks and Recreation started a lacrosse league at Withrow Park. The City ran the lacrosse league from 1969 through 1974. In 1975 the program was converted from lacrosse to ball hockey and then dropped by the City.
In 1976 a high school student at Riverdale Collegiate, Jim Plytas, began the Withrow Park Ball Hockey League which has continued to operate in one form or another ever since. The only exception was 1992, the year the City built the rink and the year Jim got married.
2002 marked a year of change for the League. The community and League members elected a Board of Directors who have operated the League since that time. 2003 marked the first year the League included a Bantam Division. Prior to 2003 the League had only offered a 3 year Peewee Division and at most there had been only three Peewee teams. In 2003, three new Bantam teams were added along with a 4th Peewee Team. This enabled children up to the age of sixteen to continue to participate in the League. The decision was so successful that the Peewee Division grew to six teams in 2004 and in 2005 the Bantam Division grew to four teams. In 2007 for the first time the League offered a Junior Division. The Junior Division is for youths up to the age of nineteen.
- The League has grown tremendously over its 39 year history.
- Divisions that were once only 4 teams have grown to 8 teams
- The rink is now used 7 days a week with games being played from 8:15 AM on weekends until 10 PM on most evenings
- In 2002 an electronic scoreboard was first used
- In 2002 the League website was created
- In 1999 there were 27 children’s teams, only 12 years later we now have 46 teams; an increase of 70%
- In 1999 there were less than 500 players in the League, we now have close to 900 players
- 2011 marked the 1st year of a 4 team Junior Division
- 2012 marked the 1st year of a All Girls Novice and Atom Divisions. With the Girls Division, Jimmie Simpson rink became the second home for League games.
- 2013 marked the 1st year of a All Girls Tyke Division
- There is a 6 team Men’s “30 Something” Division and a 6 team Women’s Division
- 2014 marks a year with 1000+ players
- 2015: The Girls Division expands from 4 to 5 age groups adding a High School age group.
- 2019: An All-Abilities division is created to offer ball hockey to youth with mental and physical challenges
- 2021: Young women’s division is created to bride the gap between the girls-only and women’s divisions.
- 2021: First-Shots is created to encourage ball hockey registration among New Canadians.
The success of the League is and forever will be dependent upon the involvement and dedication of community volunteers. These people work all year performing the numerous tasks required to keep the League in operation; whether it’s ordering jerseys, obtaining permits, training referees, bringing countless supplies to the rink to more mundane yet important tasks like cleaning and squeegeeing the rink after it rains.
During the season there are well over a hundred parents who volunteer their time and enthusiasm to coach in the League.
The League is indebted to the generous community businesses and individuals who sponsor teams.
SO GET INVOLVED. Your time and efforts are what make this League a success. Bring a snack for your team. When it rains, come down to help clean the rink. Don’t wait for a phone call. If your game isn’t until the afternoon, don’t worry, there will be people cleaning the rink at 7:30 AM . They need your help.
We are fortunate to have a wonderful rink that enables everyone from children to adults to play outside in the fresh air.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, be an enthusiastic cheerleader during the games.
As Mitch Potter, a writer for the Toronto Star, once wrote: Street a.k.a. Ball Hockey is “the recessive gene that makes us Canadian…..the precise point on the genetic double-helix spiral that equates road hockey with spontaneous, innocent fun…..a truly cultural phenomenon that harkens to Canadians on the street and their memories of childhood.”