A bunch of Hooligans: LaGrange-based ball hockey team enjoys first season in the Georgia Ball Hockey League season

Published 8:00 am Saturday, June 15, 2024

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What do you get when you put a bunch of LaGrange athletes on the same hockey team? You get the Hooligans. 

The LaGrange Hooligans are enjoying the first season in the inaugural Georgia Ball Hockey League season which operates under the National Ball Hockey League umbrella. The team is currently 2-1 and second out of four teams in the standings.

“We held our own in the first game and we ended up winning 5-0. We did pretty well in the second game too, I think we won 4-2 and then the last game yeah, we lost that was eight to zip. It was rough, but you don’t know how good you are until you play somebody better.”

The Georgia Ball Hockey League would not exist without Cunningham. He pushed for its existence and has helped ensure that it runs smoothly in its first year.

“It has been going really well and I’m at 90% sure we will have at least one or two more teams next season,” Cunningham said. “I know a lot of the guys from the other teams so it’s fun and competitive.”

Growth and expansion is already on the horizon. Even though the league is only halfway through its inaugural season, Cunningham is already mapping out how and where the league can grow from here.

“The guys in Birmingham may bring a team. Dothan could have one. We could get two teams out of Columbus, and another one or two out of Macon. Maybe something out of Savannah. All those places also have ball hockey or roller hockey teams, that maybe some of them would be interested in playing for like a state title kind of thing,” Cunningham said. “I don’t think going from four teams this year to eight or even 10 next year would be that big of a stretch.”

This was LaGrange hockey’s first foray into the National Ball Hockey League. The Hooligans were originally the quad-state Hooligans as they pulled people from all over the southeast to travel up to North Carolina and play in the ball hockey league up there.

It was fun, but the strain was too much. Eventually, this led to Cunningham developing the Georgia Ball Hockey League.

“That was really tough. Carolina has been playing for quite a while with the Raleigh Street Hockey League has been in existence for like 20 years. So you’ve got a lot of guys who have grown through that and played ice hockey, and they got a lot of really great talent,” Cunningham said. “That’s probably the best part of all is like now we’re all playing together.”

Travel is much less burdensome now as they play every single game in Peachtree City. Two teams are based out of Atlanta, one in Augusta and one based right here in LaGrange.

“ Three of the teams are pretty much neck and neck, but that fourth team has a lot more experienced and they are out of Atlanta and they just obviously have a much greater pool to pull from so they’ve got some college hockey players playing with them,” Cunningham said. “

There are no real age limits either. The Hooligans have players ranging from the ages of 16-62. 

The season will last until August with the winner of a playoff getting the chance to compete for a National Championship in New Jersey in September. The next series of games will be this Saturday with the Hooligans playing at 12, 1 and 4 p.m.

“ I’ve been playing sports all my life and even really good teams have their weaknesses and you know, once you’ve seen or you’ve played against them, you could start to pick those out and then figure out what you need to do to counter that,” Cunningham said of the Dirty Birds, who beat the Hooligans 8-0 in their first encounter this season. “They decisively beat the other three teams. We just have to adjust.”