Toronto Table Hockey
Tournament Draws 100+ Players
Wall Street Journal Reports "Comeback" of the Sport
Ron Marsik, Lou Marinoff, Bob Delaney,
Mark Sokolski, Mike Pope photo courtesy of Bob Delaney
Toronto, April 7, 2012
Mark Sokolski organized the
biggest North American table hockey tournament in recent
decades, which persuaded the Wall Street Journal
to report table hockey's "comeback."
Sokolski is a talented organizer
and a great table hockey player. More than that, he is also
politically savvy, and respectful of the "old guard"
organizers and champions from the 1970s. So among the dozens
of young men, women, and kids who participated in the event,
Mark also managed to draw Bob Delaney, Ron Marsik, Mike
Pope, and yours truly -- to play on a PP2. Imagine that!
This was a day that transcended the endless debates over
favorite boards. It was a day to celebrate the larger sport
of table hockey -- and, if the Wall Sreet Jounal is correct, its comeback. (WSJ story below)
We posed together for an historic
picture, as Bob Delaney presented Mark with a token of the
Ontario Provincial Government's appreciation of his service
to table hockey. Delaney is a co-founder of the original
and legitimate World Table Hockey Association (WTHA), which
partnered with Munro during the 1970s and ran 100+ player
tournaments in the "Original Six" cities. Ron
Marsik was the dominant US Munro champion, with the best
flip-shot in the business. Mike Pope was a driving force
in the talented Burlington Table Hockey League. We all played
each other in the 1970s, many times over.
Bob Delaney has graduated to
a stellar career in public office, but has not lost one
iota of his long-standing passion for table hockey. An elected
member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament, Bob once set
up a table hockey board outside the government plenary chamber,
to call its attention to the game's importance (and to ridicule
an opposition fillibuster). That's the spirit, Bob! It was
great to see him, and the others, in such fine fettle. You
can catch his inspired presentation to Mark Sokolski on
It was also great to be in
a room brimming with tables and players. Last time I participated
in tournaments with 100+ players, they were WTHA events
in the 1970s, in New York and Chicago. In 1983 or 84 the
Boucherville Tale Hockey League hosted an event that drew
128 Coleco players. So Sokolski's event ranks right up there,
with those that have surpassed the century mark in North
And the combined ages of Delaney,
Marsik, Pope, and yours truly total well over two centuries!
Add to that the ages of Dave Kraehling, Sid Kloosterman,
and some of the other "old guard" players who
participated, and mark Sokolski has definitely set a new
record for the combined ages of all players.
Aside fom the geriatric set,
from whose ranks emerged the day's eventual champion Dave
Kraehling, there were plenty of young men and teen-agers
in the men's open division. Importantly, Sokolski also managed
to fill women's and children's divisions too. Everywhere
you looked, people of all ages were thrilled to be playing
table hockey. That's a powerful statement about the broad
appeal of the sport.
Mark was also clever to bundle
the tournament with a package of events. Hosted by Ricoh
arena, the tournament entry fee included a ticket to an
afternoon Marlborough's game. Most thoughtful of all, from
my point of view, was a display of table hockey memorabilia,
including some antique boards. One of them, the old board
with stationary metal men, green mesh nets, and marbles
instead of pucks, was my very first model back in the 1950s.
My late brother Sid and I played on one for years, sometimes
with a whole bag of marbles at once! We'd play until all
the marbles were in the nets, then we'd count up the score.
Table hockey meets Go.
During a break in the action,
Mark showed me a few nifty moves on the PP2. It's tough
for a Coleco player to adjust to the cramped wingers and
pinball-like rebounds -- just as it's tough for a PP2 player
to adjust to the comparatively wide-open spaces on the 5380.
Credit Dave Khraehling with the ability to win on both tables.
He was the deserving PP2 champion on this day.
Not only did the Wall Street
Journal cover the event, but the Toronto Star
decided to send its version of fearless George Plimpton
to the tournament, and came up with intrepid Josh Rubin.
We "old-timers" recall Plimpton, an amateur athlete
with a professional set of stones, who convinced both NFL
and NHL teams to let him suit up, practice, and play with
them. His books (e.g. Paper Lion, and Open
Net) were sensational. So we always loved it whenever
a sports reporter signed up to be the George Plimpton of
These reporter-players generally
get mauled, but they have guts and they hang in there. They
invariably come away with a deeper appreciation of the skill-sets
and mind-sets of top table hockey players. Back in 1979,
the Montreal Gazette sent Herb
Zurkowski to the Canadian Open
as their George Plimpton of table hockey. Herb paid his
dues, and came away impressed. This year, the role was played
by Josh Rubin of the Toronto Star, with the same
result. Read all about it below.
The big winner was table hockey.
So congrats again to Mark Sokolski, and to everyone who
participated, in a table hockey event of historic (and maybe
even "biblical") proportions.