Once again, the Ontario Ball Hockey Association (OBHA) leads the way.
Formal street and ball hockey competition on the international stage dates back to the early 1990’s, when then OBHA President Pat McEvoy (2002 Builders Hall of Fame) helped to bring teams from Slovakia and the Czech Republic to our country for a series of exhibition games against representative clubs from Ontario. The Europeans, who thoroughly enjoyed the Canadian game and our hospitality, continued to return to participate in the infamous Can-Am Challenge Tournament in Oshawa each year thereafter. It was this competitive exchange that led to the very first World Ball Hockey Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia in 1996 where Canada captured the inaugural gold medal in our sport on the global stage.
The OBHA was instrumental in spearheading the Men’s World Championships in 1996 and subsequently led the way in not only making the Junior World tournament a reality, but setting the standard for the competition by winning the under-20 title in the Czech Republic in 2000.
Well, once again, the OBHA led the way in 2001 as the Team Canada hosted the World Championships as the world came to see the World Ball Hockey nations gather to crown a World Champion, emblematic of ball hockey supremacy.
How the team came together...
The OBHA hosted a selection camp in February of that year with 66 hopefuls (6 goalies, 18 defenceman and 42 forwards) that were run through physical testing on Friday evening and then would gather for practices with their team staff followed by a three-team scrimmage pool against each respective team.
After the camp the staff would gather at a local hotel and select the 25 player roster who would convene again in June before the tournament for a mini-camp to review strategies and systems.
In June of 2001 Canada welcomed the world to the World Ball Hockey Championship and the Ontario Ball Hockey Association (OBHA) hosted the eight-team tournament with two pools of four, Austria, Bermuda, Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, Switzerland, United States of America would join the hosts Canada June 6-10 at Herbert H. Carnegie Arena in the north end of Toronto.
After the round robin games, the pools were further split into A & B Pools for the medal rounds. The A pool would see Slovakia and Switzerland along with the Czech Republic and host Canada. Austria, Bermuda, Germany and the United States of America would form the B Pool.
The A Pool semi finals would see the two European power houses play a defensive game with the Czech Republic coming out on top with a 2-1 victory over Slovakia. In the other semi final, Canada would score a convincing 6-0 victory over Switzerland.
The medal round would have Slovakia winning the bronze with a 4-0 win over Switzerland. The gold medal game was a rematch of the preliminary round game which had Canada pull out a 3-0 victory over the Czech Republic.
In the B pool medal round Bermuda would capture gold with a win over Germany and Austria beat the United States of America for bronze.
The A pool Championship final was highly anticipated with the offensively gifted Canadian team who had yet to give up a goal with a +29 combined from round robin and semi-final result against the defensive minded Czech Republic who had conceded 7 goals to date.
The Czech Republic were a strong disciplined defensive juggernaut with outstanding goaltending. A collection of twenty-five big, fast highly skilled young men that seemed to win every battle.
What is one of the best games ever played, Canada would have to come back tying the game late in te third period and winning the game in overtime and the Czech Republic were left thinking what if? The Czech team had come out and carried out the perfect game plan and hit two posts in overtime which showed everyone that this is literally a game of inches as Canada’s coaching staff were stymied and didn’t adjust their game plan for most of the game.
However, it was just meant to be with one of Canada’s greatest goal scorers of all time Robert Marchese ending the game on what was a wild offensive zone squirmish after Dave Marcelli kept the ball in at centre and pushed it towards the far boards, his defensive partner James Mentis would race down the wing and put the ball behind the net where it would be retrieved by Nelson Lajeunesse who patiently waited to come out from behind the net to find Marchese who would hit the back of the net with the winning goal and still can hear the voice of TSN commentor, Mike Hogan with the emphatic, Robert Marchese…..Robert Marchese….Canada has won gold!
The Championship Cup was presented shortly after to the co-captains, Ben Davis and James Mentis and the party was on!
The Canadian contingent was comprised of the following, General Manager: Antonio Iannitto, Coach: Γιώργος Γκόρτσος, Assistant Coaches: William Dark, Bob Dawson, Bryan Denney, Gerry Panza, Sal Bambaci, Fitness Coach: Phil Zulo, Trainer: Joseph Picko, Doctors: Douglas Stoddard & Jason Su
Goaltenders ~ Dana Carnegie, Troy Buswell, Michel Perodeau; Defence ~ Ray Clarke, Ross Ferriera, Bob Flanagan, Brad Foote, Dave Marcelli, James Mentis, Pat Petracionne, Paul Roy; Forwards ~ Jason Baiani, Dennis Bettencourt, Ray Calari, Ben Davis, Gus Kourousis, Nelson Lajuenesse, Robert Marchese, Robert Mentis, Sandro Morello, Paolo Musto, Ian Poulsen, Steven Roache, Rick Spalla, Pat Wick, Honorary Member: Terry Griffith (not able to play due to injury).