Norwin’s Alex Thomas trades skates for shoes to play in international ball hockey championships

Saturday, July 1, 2023 | 11:32 AM

Trading skates for court shoes, Alex Thomas still is faster than many of his opponents and can sling an orange ball past goaltenders with the same zip as a hockey puck.

The rising senior at Norwin is playing ball hockey this summer and doing so at a high level.

Thomas was selected to play for the USA U18 team in the International Street and Ball Hockey Federation World Junior Championship July 3-6, in Liberec, Czech Republic.

The biannual event has been contested since 2008. The U.S. has never won a title, while Canada has set the standard with four.

Ball hockey is a variation of ice hockey, sans the ice, with teams using five runners and a goaltender.

Players use a hockey stick and wear pads and helmets.

Positions are the same, but there are subtle differences: “icing” is replaced with “flooring.”

“I have played ball hockey for about nine or 10 years now,” Thomas said. “The big differences I can notice is the pace of play, with running it is a lot different — you have to be able to run to your positions instead of gliding there on skates.

“I love to play because it can help benefit ice hockey with stick-handling and being aware of the game because they are similar.”

Thomas was selected for the team via a tryout earlier this year near Philadelphia.

He has been out of the country before, but not quite like this.

Hockey has taken him to Mexico, St. Lucia and Canada. Europe will be something altogether different.

“I just think playing against other countries and representing my country in Europe will be really cool,” he said.

While Thomas revels in scoring goals, he enjoys winning just as much. The trip to Europe, he hopes, comes with a championship.

“It’s definitely one of my top moments,” Thomas said. “I think winning would be really cool — with the same feeling as the Pens Cup.”

Thomas had 38 goals and 32 assists last PIHL season for a team-leading 70 points. He has more than 100 career points with the Knights.

With one more season at Norwin ahead, Thomas plans to play for the Esmark Stars this year but hopes to forge a path to juniors.

He has a few camp invitations lined up.

“I am talking to some teams now,” he said. “I would like to go somewhere in the NAHL.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at


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