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The floor hockey tradition was alive and well in Battle Creek over the past weekend.
There was excitement in the stands and intensity on all three courts, as players battled over the orange puck. It didn’t matter what age they were, everyone was giving it their all.
“You don’t get a scholarship or anything for floor hockey. It’s just basically fun,” tournament director Caitlin LaValley said.
Kids have been coming to Battle Creek to play floor hockey for 50 years now.
The game started here, back in 1962. Thomas Harter, who worked for the city’s recreation department, came up with the rules when he was trying to find things for kids to do that didn’t cost a lot. The International Floor Hockey Tournament would be established a few years after that.
Some things have changed since the first tournament. For one, players now wear helmets with faceguards for safety. For another, the Battle Creek Parks and Recreation Department has the perfect venue in the (relatively) new Full Blast.
“Our facility is also very well set up for this to be successful, because we have the three basketball courts. We have the biggest, as far as we know, facility for it,” said Nicole Gilmore, assistant director for the tournament.
The way kids play on the court, though, hasn’t changed much.
Janet Gilmore was there for her grandchildren, all second-generation floor hockey competitors from Lansing. They were spread out on four different teams, so it was a busy weekend. The older teams could play up to six games.
“Everybody likes coming to Battle Creek,” she said. It’s a chance for bonding as a team.
One granddaughter likes to play defense, while the littlest likes to score goals.
“It’s fun and it keeps me active,” said her grandson, Tevion.
And that’s the objective.
“The mission statement is: Healthy, active kids. So we definitely lead by that,” LaValley said.
Gilmore added: “Then they become healthy, active adults, and that’s a good thing, too.”
For LaValley and Gilmore, the pay-off is seeing the kids have a good time.
There were 50 teams signed up for the 50th anniversary of the tournament — a happy coincidence, the organizers said.
They’ve increased participation and brought more visitors to Battle Creek, which is a boon for local business.
“We definitely give a lot of directions to places. Send a lot of people over to the Griffin and stuff downtown,” Gilmore said.
The next tournament is the BC Kings Invitational on Feb. 14-16.
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