east bay hockey league

EBHL 10th Anniversary Address

In the summer of 2014, EBHL co-founder and CEO Neil Libbe organized a tournament of the most rapturous hockey jubilation for the league’s 10th anniversary. As an opening to the tournament, Lauren Thomas (sister of fellow co-founder Matthew) read a brief reflection on the league’s history up to this point, which can be read below:


“When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to celebrate the tenth anniversary of an imitation hockey league, it seems fitting to pause and give thanks for all that has taken place because of the hard work and generosity of its many members.

Thanks to the generosity of many original members here today, back in 2004 when we were just a handful of kids having the police called on us in front of Neil’s house, the EBHL was able to start assembling a small army of used hockey and Taekwondo gear to play with, and was given the inspiration and materials to build multiple sets of goals, after our original ones were understandably mistaken for garbage and thrown away.

Because so many of you faithfully came to play each day, local news outlets came and wrote silly articles about us, and the EBHL became a sort-of productive summer activity for our friends that really was a fun and healthy alternative to drugs and boredom (and/or employment).

Thanks to the valor of a number of you here today, the EBHL was able to start playing with kids in Oakland, and after many of you sharing your time and equipment in teaching them how to play, this eventually led to the Sharks taking notice and offering free ice hockey lessons for these kids.

Because of the generosity and connections of others here (which included getting a sweet donation from Randy Hahn!), the EBHL received tons of ice hockey equipment for these kids, who eventually got good enough to form a tournament team (which, to be fair, was slaughtered), with three of these kids becoming good enough to play for the Oakland Bears.

All of this compounded generosity somehow eventually got the NHL’s attention, and these three – dressed in sweet new EBHL sweatshirts that certain ones of you had made and donated for them – ended up being flown to New York for a NHL skills event and even met the commissioner (who was photographed in envy of this sweet apparel).

And just two weeks ago, after years of support from EBHL friends, one of our original kids who has been playing with us since we moved the league to Oakland eight years ago was picked up by the Sharks under-15 triple-A team, the most competitive level of youth ice hockey there is — and scored two goals in his first game yesterday!

However, even above all of these things, when I think of what I am personally most thankful for with the EBHL after ten years, it is without a doubt how it has brought people together and created friendships that would not have happened otherwise. I remember when I graduated high school 11 years ago how, mostly due to general high school lameness, this area didn’t feel like home to me, and how there were only a handful of people that I was actually close with anymore. But when Neil and Luke and I stumbled across sweet hockey equipment when we were shopping for wiffle balls at Big-5 sporting ten years ago and had a reason to start sending everyone we knew messages on AIM to play with us, all of that suddenly changed. Over the past 10 years, such a ridiculous group of friends has developed through the EBHL – first here and then in Oakland – that I can’t ever imagine home being anywhere besides the east bay (except very temporarily being stuck on a rainy island, as at present). This is why I am most thankful – because how many of us would actually know Shifty and his quotes and chucky dance without the EBHL? How many would really know Vallely, or Luke? How in the world would any of us know Josh without the EBHL coming to Oakland, or Hector, who runs the whole Oakland side single-handedly? It is this chance that the EBHL has afforded all of us that, more than anything else, I am grateful for.

So today, on this 10th anniversary of imitation hockey in the east bay, I give thanks for all of the generosity that you all have put towards the EBHL and that all it has made possible, and especially for the tireless work of Neil, our faithful CEO — and yet most of all, I give thanks for the opportunity the EBHL has given to know each of you so well, because knowing you has made the east bay our home. May this next decade of the EBHL be filled with just as many testimonies that hockey is indeed better than cocaine!”



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