Scott Taylor’s “Hockey Talk” This Week With Jeff Dzikowicz


WINNIPEG, MB. – General manager Jeff Dzikowicz admitted that he was near tears. Not for himself, but for the members of Canada’s national ball hockey team.

Guys such as former Winnipeg Blues and University of Manitoba hockey star Dylan Kelly, former MMJHL playmaker Dustin Kelly, former WHL and U of M forward Remi Laurencelle, former Selkirk Steelers and SPHL Columbus Cottonmouths star Derek Gingera, former U of M and ECHL star Calin Wild and current member of the ECHL’s Wichita Thunder, Shaquille Merasty, were all core members of the 2017 National team and their last second-loss to Slovakia in the Gold Medal Final of the World Championship in Pardubice, Czech, this summer was heartbreaking.

“You know me, I’m not the kind of guy who would cry about anything,” said Dzikowicz with a sigh. “But we were down 3-0, fought back and took the lead and lost in the dying seconds and it was just gut-wrenching. I just felt so horrible for the guys. They’d worked so hard and played so well to have it end the way it did, it was just heartbreaking.”

Yes, hockey fans, we’re talking about ball hockey. But this isn’t a bunch of kids getting together on the street to flip a tennis ball into a Canadian Tire net. This is a game of skill and stamina played by great international athletes who just happen to be outstanding ice hockey players in the “off-season.”

This past summer, a team that featured eight Manitoba hockey stars, went to the world championship on the other side of the planet and brought back silver. It was Canada’s best performance since 2007 and thanks to the play of guys like 30-year-old Kevin Marchuk (River East Royal Knights of the MMJHL), 26-year-old Paul Kastes (St. Vital Victorias of the MMJHL) and 21-year-old goalie Kyle McHolm (River East, St. Boniface, Raiders of the MMJHL) Team Canada was one of the best in the world for the entire 10-day tournament.

According to GM Dzikowicz, a lifetime Winnipegger, these guys can really play.

“The World Championships are held every two years on the odd numbered year,” Dzikowicz explained. “And the competition is fierce. There are great ball hockey teams from all over the world. And the Canadian women’s team has won three world championships, the last one with our own Chantal Larocque in 2015.”

The Next Worlds will take place in 2019, but this summer, Winnipeg will play host to the Canadian National Championship from Aug. 6-11, at the Bell MTS Iceplex. Many of the National Team players will be selected at the event.

“It is a scouting year and Manitoba is hoping to sweep the Men’s, Women’s and Masters’ competitions,” said Dzikowicz. “That’s ambitious, considering the women have never won, the men haven’t won since the early 80s and this is the first year we’ll have a Masters team. So there will be open tryouts for all teams and positions in the spring.”

The Men’s Team Canada program premiered in 1996 when the national team journeyed to Bratislava, Slovakia for the inaugural World Ball Hockey Championships. Not surprisingly, Canada won gold. The men’s team won an unprecedented four straight World Championships from 2001 to 2007 and has won medals in 10 of the 11 World Championships.

The first Women’s World Championship took place in 2007 in Dusseldorf, Germany and featured national teams from Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Slovakia, and the United States. Canada won gold in 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2015 and took silver in 2011.

Ball hockey is a game that has certainly grabbed the imagination of some of ice hockey’s best players. Especially here in Manitoba.

Shaq Merasty, from Berens River First Nation, spent his early life in Thompson, but actually grew up with his grandmother in Minnedosa.

He was a terrific minor hockey player and at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, he led the 2011-12 Portage Terriers to the MJHL championship. He spent a year playing NCAA Division III hockey at Adrian College where he became an NCAA Div. III All-American and then played three seasons at the University of Manitoba.

This season, he’s playing with the Wichita Thunder in the ECHL, but when he was first introduced to the fans in Wichita, all he wanted to talk about was, you guessed it, ball hockey.

“One thing some people don’t know about me is I’m a big ball hockey guy,” he told “In the off-season, I’m usually playing a lot of ball hockey and that helps with my cardio and it’s a good experience — it’s a great sport and a great way to stay in shape.

“Like a lot of guys, I played ice hockey first. I actually didn’t start playing ball hockey until the summer of 2014. In the off-season, I work and train in Winnipeg because that’s where I’ve been going to school the last three years. I have some family there and my girlfriend lives there as well. A couple of my old former teammates that I played junior hockey with played ball hockey. They told me to come out to a couple of runs and I just kind of progressed from there. We have a league in Winnipeg that runs from May through July and that prepares us for Worlds and also prepares Team Manitoba for the Canadian Ball Hockey Championship.”

If you’re interested in becoming the next Shaquille Merasty — Team Canada star — just click on or call the administrative office at 204-925-5602. There just might be a Team Canada or Team Manitoba uniform with your name on it.

“The big thing to remember,” said Dzikowicz, “is that whether you’re a future Team Canada player or just somebody looking to have fun or stay in shape, our leagues are for all ages and all skill levels, both male and female. This is a great game.”


Scott Taylor's

Scott Taylor for the Manitoba Post

Photos by Colin Gennoe/International Ball Hockey Federation

This article first appeared in Manitoba’s only magazine dedicated to hockey in our province, Game On. Find a copy in any Winnipeg Arena.