Thousands will be converging on Marda Loop this weekend, as Play On, Canada’s largest ball hockey tournament, does a takeover of 33 Avenue SW.
The tournament, which runs on July 30 and 31, will be hosting nearly 100 teams and more than 1,000 players.
“Our whole setup is based around getting kids back into play, and adults to feel like their kids again and playing as well,” said Jake Clarke, national director of events for Play On.
The tournament is the first since the organization ceased running in 2017. Play On had planned to resume tournaments in 2020, but was unable to because of the pandemic.
“So with with two years of kids sitting idle and turning to video games, we thought it was time to bring street hockey back, and bring back players, participants, and people back to the communities that they they once got to enjoy before that Covid shutdown.” said Clarke.
Players under the age of seven to 45+ will be competing this weekend. Clarke said they’ve tried to involve players of all skill levels and genders in the tournament.
He said that he hopes the public will come down to enjoy the hockey, but also the various vendors and existing businesses in Marda Loop.
“Everyone’s welcome to come, and we hope everyone does,” said Clarke.
Tournament return a big deal for former players
Robin Rootes, a former team captain at previous events, was and continues to be a huge fan of the ball hockey tournament.
“Oh my god, it’s amazing. I’m not joking, this was the greatest weekend of my year,” she said.
“This is the thing I looked forward to for months and months and months.”
Rootes originally played in a co-ed league before moving to a men’s league. She wanted something much more competitive.
“My team placed anywhere between second and fourth in the men’s intermediate division for the eight years that I played,” she said.
“It was amazing. I loved every second of it.”
Rootes, now the marketing coordinator for the Western Ball Hockey League, was handing out posters to businesses Friday for the league’s multi-sport summer camps.
She said that there was a mixed reaction from those businesses.
“Some of them are excited. Some of them don’t really know what to expect yet, and some of them are frustrated that they didn’t have more notice,” she said.
Rootes said it was a learning experience for Play On, and that hopefully the issues would be resolved for next year’s event.
“I think that this is the first year that it’s back and the organizers are maybe new to it,” she said.
“Next time, if they give enough notice to the businesses, then the businesses will realize how amazing this is and how it’s going to promote them and they’re going to do a ton of business this weekend. From my experience having played in it, every business around the area that it was played in was just booming that weekend.”
Some residents have parking concerns with tournament
Dr. James Clifford was one of the residents of Marda Loop who was unhappy with the tournament taking over the community’s main street for the weekend.
Dr. Clifford, who lives on one of the detour routes on 18 Street SW, said that his wife’s car was one of many that were towed as a result of no-parking bans placed by the city for the event.
“Because this is the whoopee doo lane to I guess to get around this whole site,” he said.
“Not reasonable—I’m going to dispute that ticket just for the point of it.”
The entire roadway of 33 Avenue SW between 17 Street and 22 Street is closed to traffic. Additionally 18, 19, and 21 Streets SW are closed between 32 Avenue and 34 Avenue SW.
Linda Dear with Monkeyshines Children’s Books and Toys said that she was concerned about the parking situation for herself, and her customers over the weekend, but had no other issues with the tournament going on.
“It’s just the parking,” she said.
“The parking is the big issue, even with Marda Gras.”
Organizers reached out, not always successfully
Clarke said that Play On took a number of measures to inform Marda Loop residents that the tournament would be affecting the streets, going back to May of this year.
He said that they’ve put out notices on social media. They’d sent out letters to residents in the community and placed door hangers on all of the affected businesses. They even, he said, left notices on affected cars the night before the parking ban went into effect to warn residents.
Parking ban notices and signs, said Clarke, were placed in affected areas and onto poles on Tuesday, July 26.
“We’ve we’ve tried to address every issue individually,” he said.
“We know this didn’t go as smooth as everybody wanted it to.”
Darby Sellowes, who said she lives five-minutes away from 33 Avenue SW in Mission, said that the closure wasn’t affecting her enjoyment of the area.
She said though that she wasn’t aware of the tournament going on.
“I’m usually up in this area quite a bit, I just haven’t seen anything. Maybe it’s a social media thing that I’m just not on the right channels to see,” she said.
“It’s really neat, I just had no idea what’s going on.”
Transit routes re-routed north and south of 33 Avenue SW
Dr. Clifford also took issue with the detours for Calgary Transit routes through Marda Loop. He said was turning his regular commute to Crowchild from a 15 minute trip to more than 45 minutes.
Calgary Transit moved the regular stops for Route 7 one block south to 34 Avenue SW, and Route 22 one block north and one block south of 33 Avenue SW.
Marda Loop resident Avery Tarasiuk was trying to determine where her bus stop had been relocated to when LiveWire Calgary spoke to her.
She said that the Calgary Transit app didn’t indicate the changes to her route to downtown Calgary. She said that she wasn’t really aware that there were temporary changes happening.
“I didn’t really look into it,” she said.
Clarke said that Play On staff have been trying to help alleviate some of the stresses for people affected by the tournament by having courtesy golf cart shuttles for people wanting to travel through the area.
“Anything we can do to help people that might be affected by this, that they feel is negative, we’re hoping to alleviate that,” said Clarke.
“But the whole point of it is to get people back into the community, and get them out into the street playing. If we shut the street down for three days and get kids happy, when the smiles happen tomorrow morning, it’ll all be worth it.”