There are three rules of USU roller hockey: no fighting, no checking, no whining. Played like hockey, roller hockey hasn’t been fully recognized in Utah, said Nolan Garrity, junior in psychology, and president and founder of the USU Roller Hockey club.
Garrity grew up in Oregon, where he said the sport was much more common. He started playing when he was 7 years old and went on to play in high school.
“It’s probably more popular than ice hockey where I grew up, at least for a while,” he said.
When he came here for school, Garrity said he looked for a roller hockey team to be a part of, but had no luck, which led him to start the club in October 2009.
“I wanted people to have the opportunity to play,” he said. “I wanted to add organization to it.”
Garrity mentioned that the team hasn’t been able to compete against other schools yet, because of the rarity of the sport in Utah.
“I haven’t found any other schools that have a roller hockey club,” he said. “I don’t think the demand is there.”
Though the sport might be underdeveloped in Utah, it is nationally recognized. Major League Roller Hockey (MLRH) consists of several teams from across the country, including Chicago Roller Snakes, Pennsylvania Blackout and Virginia Wings, to compete in competitions and championships.
According to the MLRH Web site, it is the only “full-contact” roller hockey league operating in North America. It also has “sanctioned events and team affiliations” in the UK and Czech Republic. Founded in 1998, the MLRH has seen rises and falls in attention to the sport, but plan to introduce a six-week Slamm Hockey series in mid April.
Although the sport is similar to ice hockey, Garrity said it is a little more friendly.
“We play a lot easier,” he said. “If people want to fight, we can set up a boxing match after.”
Though roller hockey is less of a contact sport than ice hockey, some bruises are to be expected. Redge Flake, sophomore in business, said that he experienced an injury in the past. Flake said it wasn’t the ball that hit him in the face, but the stick of another player.
“I should have been more worried about the sticks,” Flake said and then laughed.
Flake had been rollerblading since he was young and began playing roller hockey after meeting Garrity’s brother last summer. Flake also plays ice hockey and said there are some differences between the two groups.
“There’s just a tiny bit different between them,” he said. “All the stick handling is pretty similar. The biggest difference is you’re outside for roller hockey.”
Flake said ice hockey players may think roller hockey is “dumb,” but he likes the atmosphere at the games.
“Roller Hockey Club is pretty sweet,” he said. “I’ve never seen anyone get in a fight or get mad at anyone else. Maybe a minor disagreement but nothing else. It’s an nice atmosphere.”
Ryan Luke, sophomore in aerospace engineering, plays ice and roller hockey and agreed the two are similar.
“They’re pretty comparable,” he said. “We don’t get very rough in roller hockey, but it’s still fun. It’s still a rush, even though it’s not as physical as far as contact goes. I enjoy both.”
Garrity said the group has a diverse following, from skill level to age.
“It’s more like an age group,” he said. “The people that tend to play are between 20 and 30. We’ve had all different walks of life come and play. We allow all different skill levels.”
Garrity went on to say they’ve also had “girls play and have had girls express interest.”
He said, “We’d love to have them play.”
Luke said he suspects more people aren’t playing because they haven’t played before.
“I think most people hear about street hockey and probably don’t think much of it,” he said. “Most people who have come out and given it a try have liked it. Whether they’re playing for fun or they are competitive, they enjoy it.”
When compared with ice hockey, Garrity explained that it’s a less expensive substitute.
“It’s definitely a great alternative for those who want to play ice,” he said. “It costs about five or 10 bucks to play roller, instead of $100 for a league or $700 for the school. It’s a cheaper alternative.”
Juggling responsibilities from school to work to a wife, Garrity said roller hockey brings some order to his chaos.
“It pushes me to be organized,” he said.
Luke agreed, saying that participating in roller hockey helps him manage his time.
“It makes me want to get everything else organized, so I can play,” he said. “It helps by giving me extra motivation to get the other things done.”
When asked what he would like to see for the club in the future, he focused on growth.
“I’d like to have at least 50 people in the club,” he said. “I’ve had people express interest that they’d like to come watch. I’d like to get it somewhere close to where the ice hockey team is right now, maybe get a rink for the city. It’s something that takes a while to plan. In four or five years it might have a chance.”
Garrity said the club welcomes everyone and holds practices twice a week on Saturdays and Wednesdays.
“All skill levels are welcome,” he said. “Friends, family, community members are welcome to play. It’s just a fun, carefree environment rather than something serious. The only thing we require are that you have stick skates and that you show hustle.”
The roller hockey team will play its first game April 3. More information can be found at the club’s ASUSU page or at the Web site schoolyardpuck.com.
-by Kasey Van Dyke