Welcome to the first edition of Ball Hockey Monthly. Each month, we will endeavor to deliver all the news, profiles, and events surrounding our great sport. This month, we lead with a profile of USA Ball Hockey’s Director of Hockey Operations, Cory Herschk. We also recap the results from recent tournaments from around the country and highlight some upcoming, can’t-miss events.
Profile – USA Ball Hockey’s Cory Herschk
BHM: Cory, tell us about your history with ball hockey.
Herschk: In short, my friends and I would play in the parking lot below my mom’s house every day. Sometimes we’d get the urge to play on smooth concrete at a basketball court nearby. When a local ball hockey rink was put in place, we formed neighborhood all-star teams to compete against each other. In the cold months, we’d play in a local gym. Once I turned 16, I outgrew all the leagues around us and that is when my coaching career began. No one took on that role so I volunteered, and haven’t turned back since. Nearly 22 years later, I’m still having a blast!
BHM: What’s your current involvement with the sport?
Herschk: I am currently the head coach of the Pittsburgh Gods who are among the top five club teams on the continent and I am the Director of Hockey Operations for USA Ball Hockey. I also just finished my third stint as head coach for the US Men’s National Team.
BHM: Who is the one player you are most excited to watch play right now?
Herschk: Normally, I preach team first. It’s who I am and it’s what makes our teams bond so well together. Yet, there’s one guy who I’m more often than not hard on and don’t tell him how much I appreciate him nearly enough for always being so dedicated to hitting the gym, coming to as many practices as he has over the years, and being an ironman to have played in nearly every one of our games. Steve Gregory is the anchor for our club team, the Pittsburgh Gods. Without Steve, we would not have come close to achieving the awards that we’ve been so blessed to have earned. He seems to get better, stronger, and faster each year. I’ve watched him transform from wing to center and from grinder to elite scorer. His speed is matched by his leadership and ability to want to win more than anybody, forcing his teammates to care equally as much. Don’t tell him I said that though. Steve, if you’re reading, you better keep back-checking!
BHM: What is your best ball hockey memory?
Herschk: Winning a silver medal in Switzerland at the 2015 ISBHF World Championships, or should I say, losing the gold medal in overtime to an incredible Slovakian hockey program truly is a highlight and something I’m proud of. This sport has provided me with an extended family of brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews that are a part of my and my wife’s world. Being able to travel all over the US is a very fortunate thing that I do not take for granted, but being able to travel the world has always been a dream of mine, and this sport has allowed me to do that. I’m very lucky and blessed to have met the people and seen the places I have seen. Those are things that I’ll never forget.
BHM: What does the future of the sport look like to you?
Herschk: One priority for us all is to organize the game of ball hockey so that it becomes an Olympic sport. We are only a few countries away from meeting the requirements of doing so. For me, the future is exciting. I can see it filled with new rinks and little kids as early as four years old learning from USA Ball Hockey-certified coaches and referees. I can see members of Team USA helping provide camps and give back to the community. I believe we will have national high school and middle school ball hockey leagues. We are working to have regional directors organize meetings together with the goal of keeping tournaments on an even playing field. Our group has the determination to see girls’ leagues so that the young ladies of the game can have a league to call their own. We also want to organize events with USA Hockey showing the ice hockey community that we want to work with them to help develop players with the dream of having players make it to the NHL one day and be able to credit the sports of ice and ball hockey for their development.
BHM: Name the top player you have ever seen play.
Herschk: Wow! That’s a tough question. I’ve been lucky enough to coach some of the best, and coach against some of the world’s best. Tony Montaro, from the Leafs/Midnight Express and Team Portugal was unreal in the 2005 world championships along with Alex Burrows, former NHL player from Team Canada. I’d argue that Danick Martel (also an NHL player) from Team Canada could be one of the best I’ve ever seen. No one can really argue what “The Ninja” Boris Oravec has accomplished as a player on the Slovak National Team. He’s out-willed and over-powered opponents to help his team to four straight gold medals. Tyler Ennis and Andrew Shaw (both NHLers) were incredible as world junior players before signing big NHL contracts. Coaching Bobby Housser and Denny Schlegel, who represented us so well through the years and [was] a dominant offensive threat, while also killing penalties with ease in 2015, helped us win a silver medal for the Men’s Senior National Team. That’s a loaded list.
BHM: What’s your next big idea?
Herschk: One current project that we are starting in March 2020, with help from Anthony Sanrocco and his staff in the EBHL, is forming the National Ball Hockey League. We are working to organize Men’s Senior Divisions in Massachusetts, South Jersey, North Jersey, D.C., Michigan, Chicago, Iowa, Buffalo, and California for now. Each division winner will soon be able to compete for an overall NBHL Championship against one another in a town like Las Vegas. Starting a professional league that little kids will aspire to be a part of as they grow older will hopefully motivate them to play this game longer.
Team Canada Takes 10th Annual City of Origins Tournament
On Oct. 5, DC Street Hockey (DCSH) hosted its 10th Annual City of Origin (COO) Tournament. This unique tournament, held at a rink recently renovated by the Washington Capitals, in Alexandria, VA, groups players on teams from the cities they grew up in providing them the opportunity to play alongside other athletes from their region.
The 10th edition of the tournament featured a remarkable amount of competitive games this year with teams from Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Team Midwest, Team Northeast (NY/NJ/CT) and two teams from the DC area.
After the completion of the preliminary round, Team D.C.-Moore came out on top of their division with a whopping 37 points followed by Canada, who placed second with a 2-1 record. In the other division, Philadelphia advanced easily to clinch the top seed and finished with 29 points. The battle for second place, and a berth in the playoffs, provided one of the most exciting conclusions of the day as Buffalo, with their goalie pulled and with a man advantage, got a goal from Mike Maiorana to clinch a trip to the semifinals.
In the semifinals, Buffalo got goals by Dan Reynolds, Phil Glazier, AJ Goetz, and Steve Gorniakto to advance to their first ever COO finals. The second semifinal featured two COO heavyweights as bitter rivals Canada, with two COO championships in their history, and Philadelphia, with five COO championships, clashed. In the end, Canada scored an overtime victory with the winning goal from Tyler Midwinter.
In the championship game, Buffalo faced off against Team Canada. The American side got off to fast start and took a two-goal lead courtesy of Jamie Brennan and Joe Shea. However, Canada’s Sean Miller decided to take matters into his own hands and pulled Canada even by the end of the first with two consecutive goals. The teams exchanged goals during the rest of regulation time and headed into extra frames setting up a classic final.
Canada controlled the pace of play early in overtime, but hit the post on at least a couple of occasions, prompting fears of squandering their chances to close the game out. In the end, a Buffalo turnover in their own zone was converted by eventual tournament MVP Midwinter, propelling Canada to their third COO championship and first since 2014.
Up Next, Holiday Bash
This December, Cool Hockey Events will hold their annual Holiday Bash tournament. Always a favorite amongst players, the tournament will be played over two weekends this year. The first weekend, from Dec. 6 through Dec. 8, will feature teams from Men’s Novice and Recreation divisions, Co-Ed A and B divisions, and Women’s A and B divisions. The second weekend will feature teams competing in the Men’s Open division, and Men’s C and D divisions.
All in all, around 50 teams will be competing in December at Holiday Bash originating from places across the continent including, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, Ontario, DC, New York, New Hampshire, Maryland, and Virginia. Many of the teams will also feature numerous players from the US women’s and men’s national teams. Fans will be able to watch live feeds of the games through Cool Hockey’s Facebook page.
It goes without saying that this new initiative can only be made better with your help. If you have news or tournament results you would like to share, please reach out so we can include them. You can email your news, suggestions or tips to firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author
Angelo is the current general manager of the US Women’s National Ball Hockey Team. He has also played on two US Men’s Masters National Teams at the World Championships in 2014 and 2016. He resides in the Washington, DC area where he also coaches the First Ladies Hockey Club and covers the Washington Capitals for The Hockey Writers.