SportsEvents Magazine

JUN 2018

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Page 38 of 67 June 2018 39 had 65 kids show up. It was amazing. Every single one of those kids had roller blades and sticks with them because they play in their streets or on tennis courts or cul-de- sacs." NCRHA Executive Director Brennan Ed- wards said the association started holding youth clinics in its seven conferences to draw interest to the sport. "Our players will do a one-hour clinic for kids ages 5 to 17," Edwards said. "Our guys donate their time, the rink donates its time. It's great. It's a way these kids hear about our league. Now, there are more kids in Fargo who know we have college roller hockey." Mission Hockey College, a grassroots program, attracts about 400 kids a year. Organizers are hoping it'll help give the sport a second wind after a slight decline in numbers over the past five years. Still, 55 teams representing 14 states competed in Divisions I, II, III and Junior College during this year's championships, drawing about 1,200 people to Fargo's Southwest Youth Ice Arena. That's an economic impact of about $2 million for the four to five days of play, Coggin said. Not bad for a relatively young sport. After all, the first inline skates came out in the early 1980s. Roller hockey is played similarly to ice hockey. The rink is about the same size, with the same boards, glass and penalty boxes but play happens on a sport court in- stead of ice. And instead of ice hockey's six players, roller hockey is played with five. Otherwise, "just switch ice skates with inline skates," Edwards said. "Traditionally, roller hockey guys don't wear padded pants or shoulder pads but it's the same gloves and shin pads." The NCRHA was founded in 1998 with five organizations and now has more than 175 teams and 2,000 players across the country. Another premier tournament is the North American Roller Hockey Championships (NARCh), which started in 1994 with 39 teams. This year, between 220 and 230 teams will compete in its West Coast FINALS on June 21 – July 1 at The Rinks in Irvine, Calif. Another 160 to 170 teams will go head-to-head at The Cooler in Alpharetta, Ga., for the East Coast FINALS on July 12 – 22. That's 400 teams competing in two tour- naments with 22 days of play, said Daryn Goodwin, owner and director of NARCh. Participants range in age from 6 and under to 40 and over, and include girls, women and a pro division with teams vying for $25,000 in prize money. The largest age groups are typically 10 and under through 18 and under, Goodwin said. About 1.93 million skaters ages 6 and older participate in roller hockey each year, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association's 2016 Participation Report. A challenge for the sport is availability of facilities. Roller hockey is unique. Unlike basketball where all you need is a hoop, a basketball and sneakers, or soccer where all you need is a ball and field, roller hockey requires a bit more equipment as well as a flat surface large enough for an 80 foot by 180 foot playing area. At a couple of California campus loca- tions, there are multiple rinks under one ► t SPORT Report

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