Skaters hit the rinks on four wheels

The championships have been won, team wind-up parties are done, and the curtain on the 2014-2015 minor ice hockey season has fallen.

Now what?

Kids and adults all over Calgary have left the glorious smell of the hockey dressing room for the last time this season and will go their separate ways for the off-season.

Many will take the summer months off from sports, but many will also play a variety of other organized sports. Soccer, baseball, lacrosse and football all come to mind, but there is another sport out there that many people like to play after ice hockey season wraps up.

Roller hockey is a popular choice for the hockey fanatic, but lots of people haven’t seemed to hear of it.

“I didn’t know you could play hockey on inline skates.” This is something Nick Parkyn, owner and manager of the Calgary Roller Hockey League (CRHL), is all too familiar with hearing.

Roller hockey is based off ice hockey, so it definitely has its similarities, but Parkyn is quick to point out some of its distinctive differences.Kids and adults alike are trading in their blades for wheels to play roller hockey.

Photo by A.J. Mike Smith

“Roller hockey is a sport that is much faster and more wide open than ice hockey. The fact that there are only four skaters and a goalie on the surface with no offsides and icings; opens up the game,” Parkyn said. “Roller hockey is non-contact, therefore it allows creative players to weave their magic on the surface without the fear of being hit, which opens up the game with lots of goals and incredible action.”

Essentially there are no whistles until the puck is in the back of the net. Roller hockey has much more flow to the game than ice hockey, and allows for skill players to come out of their shells and truly show their stuff.

Jordan Cardinal, a roller hockey player from Edmonton and member of Team Alberta, has been playing since he was eight years old, and loves every minute of it.

“My previous coach quoted, ‘roller is essentially basketball without a shot clock.’ And that stuck with me because that’s really the main reason why I love roller,” Cardinal said.

Parkyn got into the sport when his next-door neighbor’s team needed a goalie, the position Parkyn’s eldest son played in ice hockey. From there, he eventually took over the CRHL and has been the owner for eight seasons.

Some players use roller to hone their skills for when the snow falls and it’s time to hit the ice again. Essentially there are no whistles until the puck is in the back of the net. Roller hockey has much more flow to the game than ice hockey, and allows for skill players to come out of their shells and truly show their stuff.

Photo by A.j. Mike Smith Most play roller hockey just for fun, but Parkyn said there are many opportunities south of the border to play competitively and get an education out of the deal.

“The past couple of years I’ve received emails from coaches of Division 3 schools in the southern United States scouting for players who would like to continue playing inline hockey as well as attend a post-secondary school. Some schools have now started to offer scholarships.”

Cardinal realizes this, and wouldn’t mind expanding on his roller hockey experience.

“Roller is huge in the states, it’s for sure more popular than ice hockey due to expenses. That’s why there’s college roller, high school roller, winter leagues. It’s a big deal down there. Playing college roller would be pretty cool and it’s always been a goal of mine,” said Cardinal.

In addition to that, some have used roller to hone their skills for when the snow falls and it’s time to hit the ice again.

Mark Rassell started playing roller in the U-10 division, and continues to light up the CRHL. During the ice hockey season, he calls Medicine Hat home, playing for the Tigers in the WHL.

Brandon Bollig of the Calgary Flames played roller as well as ice, winning a State Wars title with team Missouri, becoming the first player to win both a State Wars championship and the Stanley Cup.

The Calgary Roller Hockey League season kicks off April 14 and runs to the end of June. Competitive teams start early May and wrap up their tournaments by mid-August.

When it comes down to it for Parkyn, hockey is hockey.

“I would say I love roller and ice hockey equally. I’m a Canadian it’s in my DNA that any sport with a puck and stick I’m hooked.”

ajsmith@cjournal.ca

To contact the editors responsible for this story; Evan Manconi at emanconi@cjournal.ca; Bre Brezinski at bbrezinski@cjournal.ca.