A group of young ball hockey players will have a chance to be pioneers as they will be the first U13 Saskatchewan team to play in the prestigious Western Challenge Cup held in Edmonton July 13-16.

The Bridge City Bisons, made up of players from Saskatoon, Warman and Humboldt were having their final home practice at the Warman Home Centre Communiplex on Thursday, June 29 and they looked sharp doing it.

Head coach Amar Vasani was excited for the opportunity to have a team compete at this high level.

The Western Challenge Cup Ball Hockey provides an opportunity for skilled minor ball hockey players to come together and compete at an elite level against other ball hockey associations from Western Canada (Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia) with tournament divisions including: U11, U13, U15, U17, U20. The tournament was started in 1999 when minor ball hockey associations of British Columbia and Alberta saw there were no National or Western Canada Championships for minor ball hockey competitors. The tournament continues to grow as the popularity of ball hockey has increased.

That includes Saskatchewan. Teams from our province have begun to experience success at a national level.

Coach Amar Vasani selected the players for the elite team over the past season, drawing top talent from teams across the league

“It is coming. With the older teams winning, it gives these kids something to strive for,” said Vasani.

He spent the past season selecting the team.

“I coach ball hockey in Saskatoon. I watched the teams play over the year and picked from that.”

There are nine players from Saskatoon, eight from Warman and one from Humboldt. The Humboldt player did not play ball hockey in the Saskatoon league but was known from soccer and spring hockey. He was invited and has made a major contribution to the team.

“This is the first time Saskatchewan has sent a U13 team to the Challenge Cup. Other provinces start them at U9-11, so it will be exciting to have a taste of what it is all about,” said Vasani.

The Thursday practice was the last of five practices. The team plans to have their last practice in Edmonton before the tournament.

“We’ll have one more practice in Edmonton on July 12, the night before we play,” he said. “That will allow them to get in the flow of it. We’ll take pictures with their jerseys and get the parents involved.”

Most of the players also play ice hockey and the skills developed and maintained will help them improve.

“Ball hockey helps your ice hockey skills when it comes to stickhandling. The off-season workout keeps your motor skills sharp,” said Vasani.

The one player who only plays ball hockey is very skilled on defence and one of the team’s best players.

Elevn players will have a chance to make some great memories at the tournament.