'It feels like it's taken over the sport'
That's what founder Gianni Sanrocco says about the National Ball Hockey League. Take a look at how the league formed and grew.
Smile! Gianni Sanrocco enjoys some time away from the net
When Gianni Sanrocco, his brother Anthony, and their friend
embarked on forming a national league for ball hockey, they didn’t
know all of what they were getting into. Sanrocco (Gianni), the
younger of the two brothers, states the group had a “silouhette” of the
tasks ahead of them, but “nothing prepares you for the actual work
that needs to go into it.”
With their eyes set on a 2020 inaugural season, the trio hammered
out instructions for teams looking to enter. They depended on teams
they had encountered during travel tournaments, as well as new
groups exposed to their social media accounts for their house league,
the Evesham Ball Hockey League, in Marlton, New Jersey. Their
updated scores, accurate stats, highlight videos, and recorded games
served as a beacon of professionalism and a blueprint for teams
“We basically said this is a formula that could work anymore. All you need is the hockey players,” Sanrocco explains. Players were eager to jump in.
Covid-19 dashed a 2020 season before it began, but the 2021 campaign brought 76 teams spread across over 10 regional divisions from New Jersey to Seattle. Teams compete within their conference with the top team(s) earning a bid to the Mylec Cup Tournament, the NBHL’s holy grail.
The Mylec Cup is the heart of the league, and the element that ties together what Sanrocco refers to as a “base of players scattered across the country.” Here, players from Texas could take on team from Pittsburgh, putting the “National” in NBHL.
At just 24 Sanrocco handled bookkeeping, marketing, sponsorships, and partnerships, and created most social media content. This upcoming season, set to begin in April, he’ll be able to delegate more due to the NBHL’s increased staff size.
Despite its infancy, Sanrocco has lofty goals for the NBHL. This includes clinics, individual tournaments, and anything that “puts the product out there.” However, he knows this might be a long process: “we’re still just trying to get our feet underneath us."