By Mark Squibb
About 1,200 ball hockey players, along with their parents, descended on Bay Roberts this past weekend for the annual Light the Lamp tourney.
The tournament was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It went unbelievable,” said Bay Roberts Recreation Direction Ian Flynn. “The weather was fantastic, and everybody felt safe…. We were tickled pink that we were able to pull off the event in the times that we’re in.”
About 130 teams from as far west as Clareville competed over two days in over a dozen different tiered categories.
Though the event lasts but a weekend, planning for the event, especially given the ever-changing COVID situation, takes months — and manpower.
“It takes a complete team effort,” said Flynn. “So, we have a group of volunteers that look after registration, and we have a group of volunteers that look after scheduling, and we have a group of volunteers that look after traffic. And we all meet maybe once a week to discusses, and say, ‘Okay, where are we too, what are we missing, what do we need to do?’ And we pool our resources and contacts together to try and help each other out. But this is months in the making, to make sure that when people come into Bay Roberts, they get the best experience possible.”
And how many volunteers does it take to pull off the two-day ball hockey tourney? Flynn estimates, from start to finish, about 300 folks come together to make the event happen, from those registering teams to those directing players where to go.
“You have people who feel like, ‘Well, I’m only putting on a shirt and walking around,’ but they’re just as valuable as the guys that are off doing traffic,” said Flynn.
Of course, planning such an event requires dedication and coordination under normal circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic added a whole new layer of challenges.
Flynn said the plan for the tourney had to be in sync with provincial government restrictions, and the event date had to be changed a number of times.
Outbreaks in central and western Newfoundland also caused concern.
“We were watching that with bated breath, and so that was added stress that we normally don’t have,” said Flynn. In light of those outbreaks, Flynn resubmitted the event plan to the provincial government, who gave the event the ‘Okay go.’
That go ahead didn’t actually come until Wednesday morning — days before the games began.
Still, said Flynn, organizers were ready to call the event off in the name of safety if need be.
“Safety of spectators and participants and volunteers was always first and foremost, and at any point, right up until the eleventh hour, if we felt we had to pull the plug to protect people, we would have,” said Flynn.
The event impacted more than just those who donned jerseys or cheered from the sidelines.
“The economic spin off alone is tremendous,” said Flynn. “In a year where businessed have suffered, and have been dealt some hard blows with restricted capacities, and some businesses have had to close, it was a real shot in the arm for those businesses this weekend.”
All in all, it was a good weekend for the town.
“One of the comments I’ve heard over the last couple of days is that ‘This event makes me proud to be from Bay Roberts,’” said Flynn.
Events like this almost act as a dry run for volunteers of the NL Summer Games, which the town will host in the summer of 2024.
“If we can pull off this event during these times, and keep people happy and safe and enjoy being here, I think that gives our town and our volunteers a really positive shot in the arm for three years time when we’re hosting the Newfoundland Games,” Flynn allowed.