Youth ball hockey tournament debuts before Lighting Watch Party.
Jason Morales likes getting his son, Jake, into different sports, and ball hockey is one of the more unique sports they’ve come across, being that it is ice hockey without the ice.
“He enjoys ripping shots into the goal just like every other kid,” Morales said. “He likes playing all the positions that they have.”
Morales will coach his son, a fifth-grader at Robert E. Willis Elementary, and his classmates in the first youth ball hockey tournament in Lakewood Ranch on April 7 at the Tampa Bay Lightning Watch Party at Main Street at Lakewood Ranch.
There will be four other teams playing in the youth ball hockey tournament. The same basic rules of ice hockey apply to ball hockey. One team has a small ball and tries to shoot it into the other team’s net with hockey sticks.
“I think it’s a great idea to get kids into hockey without having them learn to ice skate,” Morales said.
Representatives from the Lightning came to the schools and performed demonstrations of ball hockey and gave the school's ball hockey equipment.
Jay Feaster, vice president of communication for the Tampa Bay Lightning, said the Lightning has donated more than 75,000 balls and sticks as part of the program.
“In Florida, ice hockey isn’t a traditional sport and doesn’t have a traditional market,” Feaster said. “We’re trying to grow awareness from a young age.”
The youth hockey tournament will have two rinks set up on Main Street, depending on how many teams sign up. The tournament will begin at 11 a.m. and end at 5 p.m., before the Lightning game begins at 7 p.m.
Beer will be available for purchase and vendors will sell food at the event.
The Lightning Watch Party is free and open to the public. Chairs and dogs on leashes are welcome, and there will be other activities before the game.
Morales said his son, as well as about 10 other children, will play for the Willis team.
“A lot of the kids know each other from school and some of them play travel lacrosse,” Morales said. “We’ll probably practice a few times before Saturday, but the kids pick it up pretty easily.”