Every Monday night you can find David and Leah Noon sitting atop the small stage overlooking the man-made floor hockey arena they have created at the Bob Rumball Centre in Toronto.
The husband and wife tandem are the co-founders of the York Adult Hockey League (YAHL), featuring 10 teams, and roughly a hundred players from across the GTA.
The league is prospering in its 13th year of existence, a thought the Noon’s could not have fathom when they started the league in 2001.
“I was playing in a floor hockey league that was run out of a fraternity at York University,” explained David Noon. “The fraternity fell on hard times and the league started to fall apart, so I was playing softball with some of the guys in the league and said ‘somebody needs to really run that league’ and everybody kind of looked at me and said ‘well you should run it.’”
Running a league proved to be a lot harder than initially anticipated for the Noons as scheduling, gym issues and lack of commitment all hindered its success.
“We started with six teams, and the first season was a mess,” said David Noon. “We didn’t keep stats, guys were quitting in the middle of games. It was a very small gym out in Thornhill. The teams weren’t even, and it was all just a big mess.”
League initially struggled
The league seemed to be crumbling at first, and its prospects weren’t good for the initial season.
However, after a summer away from the floor, players began to approach the Noons about the possibility of a second season, offering some improvements along the way.
“The second season was a lot smoother. The teams were a bit more fair as we knew the skill level of some of the guys,” said Noon. “We started keeping stats and we had a website built which is one of the staples of our league.”
The website features a history book showing all the stats since the league’s inception in 2001, a full message board when players discuss all the topics of the day throughout the league, and full standing and statistics categories that the Noons update themselves following games.
“The website just takes the league to another level,” said Lee Grunberg, captain of the YAHL Oilers team. “Keeping stats, the [chirping] on the message board, the history book of all the stats from past season. It just builds the legacy of the league. Something more than the recreational element of the game.”
The league has become so systematic in its procedures that it has formed a competition committee, which ranks every player.
“Players are given a rank from A+ through D,” said Noon. “Each team must have one player at each rank to fill out their nine-player team. This makes the draft so compelling because a D player might get taken first overall because they have the best value at their skill ranking.”
This becomes extremely important at the end of every August when the league holds a live draft at the end for the captains to pick their teams.
“We made a whole event out of the draft,” said Noon. “We rent out [Wegz Stadium Bar] in Richmond Hill and we buy beers and appetizers for everyone. Captains from each of the ten teams will come out wearing their teams colours and logos and they will draft their players.”
The live draft has become a staple and it’s one of the reason it draws so many players to the small recreational league. York is also the only recreational league in Toronto that has a live draft system.
“When else, if you’re not a professional athlete, can you get your name called and recognized in front of all your friends?” said Grunberg. “You get brought up onto the stage and given your jersey and hat, it’s really a special moment for a middle-aged man.”
Network of Friends
Although tempers get high on the floor, the league has formed a brotherhood of sorts off the court, as the constant flow of players from each team has given a social aspect to the league, along with a mantra.
“If not for the league we would not have put together a Team Israel for the World Ball Hockey Championship and won a bronze medal,” said Oilers forward Paul Pearl. “I made a business deal through a guy in this league.
“If not for the league we wouldn’t have been in a flash mob at Yorkdale,” said Penguins forward Matt Roy.
Grunberg said the frustration he sometimes feels on the floor doesn’t affect his overall enjoyment.
“I bought my car through someone in this league,” said Grunberg.
“There are so many things that happened positively in my league, directly because of the league. There are moments when you get frustrated at some of the guys on the other teams, and there are moments when your anger can get the better on you. But, I keep reminding myself: ‘if not for the league.'”