by Harit Joshi —

That sport is the best unifier is once again proven by the Lalli and Kang families of Merritt.

The passion for ball hockey runs deep into these families of Indian immigrants. Seeing their fathers play the sport in the 1980s, their children too took a liking to the sport and went on to play competitively.

In 2003, a team called Merritt Boilermakerz became the Division B champions in the Ball Hockey League. The team, consisting mostly from Merritt, had won the championship while attending post secondary school in the Lower Mainland.

The 2003 Boilermakerz. Top Row: Dalbir Kang, Mike Bhopal, Dave Kang, Josh Holden, Steve Gropp, Sukhbir Kang, Pawan Lalli, Raj Lalli, Taz Dhillon.
Bottom Row:
Roger Nann, Amen Lalli, Gur Kang, Paul Kang, Wally Konowalchuk, Ladi Dhillon and Randy Sihota.

Twenty years later, these boys-turned-men’s, put together a team in the Interior Cup that was held in Penticton during the May Long weekend in honour of Amen Lalli, one of the darling players of the 2003-winning team. Merritt Boilermakerz made it to the semi-finals of the Division E where they lost to Dark Knights. Warlocks, who beat Merritt Boilermakerz in a shootout in the round robin, were crowned the winners of the Division E.   

The sudden demise of Amen, who represented Team India in the World Ball Hockey League in 2005, a couple of years ago prompted his brother Rajan Lalli to put up a team in the competition once again.

Amen Lalli passed away unexpectedly in 2021. Photo/Raj Lalli

“Amen was very passionate about ball hockey. He always wanted to keep the families unified through the sport. His passing away made us realise that life is too short and we must make sure to make every moment memorable. That’s how the thought came to enter the tournament this year. Unfortunately, we could not win the title as that would have been the icing on the cake, but nonetheless it was a great experience for all of us. It was particularly very emotional for the Lalli and the Kang families,” Lalli said.

The decision to participate in the competitive league was not going to be easy. Most of them had lost touch with the sport and were not in the groove. But they never gave up on the idea. They practised religiously for four months before the tournament. “It was certainly challenging. Most of us are still injured or have severe body aches. But the joy was incredible to be able to compete so well despite such a huge gap. We hope to continue competing in the tournament for at least the next five to six years and win the tournament for our brother Amen,” added Raj.

The other goal that Raj & Co want to achieve through this is to inspire the next generation ditto as their fathers.

“We got inspired watching our father play ball hockey. We want the same to happen to our kids now. We hope that we are able to inspire the next generation and other youngsters to take up ball hockey and continue the tradition,” Raj concluded.