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Game over: Clock runs out on Barrie Ball Hockey Club

'I’ve met some incredible people because of Barrie Ball Hockey,' says longtime player; Orillia's rink has a lease agreement until 2023

The final seconds have ticked off at the Barrie Ball Hockey Club.

The club hosted its final two games Thursday and the fate of the sport remains up in the air with some local players feeling lost without it.

“It is true that ball hockey is done at this site," Barrie Ball Hockey Club manager Mike Browning said. “We already have two rinks down and there (were) two games Thursday and that’s it.

“I don’t know much about the (property) sale side of it, just that Barrie Ball Hockey as we have known it is over," he added. 

Since 1994, the club had been operating near the corner of Ferndale Drive and Dunlop Street West. With four rinks, the outdoor area has provided decades of fun for people of all ages.

But a pending closure, announced in March, has now shut down the popular site, leaving many looking for ways to fill their time.

Many players say they are already starting to miss it, including Steven Santos, who told BarrieToday it was life-changing for him.

“When I moved back to Barrie, my brother Ryan messaged me. He ran a team called Bar Down and they needed some players," Santo said. "I can’t thank him enough. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without ball hockey.

“At first, it was just something to do, a way to keep active, but it quickly became the people, the sense of community," he added. "I’ve met some incredible people because of Barrie Ball Hockey and I’ve had some of the greatest memories.”

Santos has been with the local club for 11 years, mainly as a right-winger.

When asked what he will miss the most, Santos said it was a mixture of so many things. 

“All of it. There isn’t one specific thing. The adrenaline from a tight game, the camaraderie of people coming together when someone goes down," he said. "Support for each other at tournaments, when usually we’re competing against each other. The people I won’t see anymore. The rival teams always, I looked forward to playing the rivals. All of it, I’m going to miss it all."

Jim Lowe said he and a friend were the 64th and 65th players to join the club and there are only a handful of originals left from that inaugural '94 season.

Lowe says it's a shame to see the facility shut down, because he’s made many enduring friendships through ball hockey. His first coaching experiences also came at the club.

“Well, it was a playoff loss, so not exactly the best way to go out," Lowe said. "But it was against a longtime rival we like and respect, so I can live with it. I got to play the game with my son, another young man I coached for years, and a bunch of my close friends. We also had Tim and Fred reffing the game, two guys who have reffed my games hundreds of times over the past 28 years.”

At the end of October 2021, the Barrie property was sold and then-owner Brian Broley was in the midst of moving Ball Hockey Barrie to another site. During that time, as he was negotiating a lease agreement and looking for another place to move the rinks, Broley died.

Barrie Ball Hockey's Orillia site has a lease agreement until 2023 and the St. Catharines rink sale closed at the end of February.