Scott Hill the (British Columbia Provincial Director, President of the Langley Sportsplex, the man behind the BC Inline Hockey Association, and overall great guy) took the time to chat with State Wars Hockey about roller hockey in Canada, the Canadian love affair with State Wars Hockey, school credits being given for Team BC participation and more….
TM: Scott, tell our readers a bit about your facility in BC and your roller hockey program?
SH: Our facility is the Sportsplex located in Langley, BC, about 20 minutes from downtown Vancouver. We have 4 rinks in the building: 2 ice and 2 year-round roller hockey. The facility has been open for 11 years and before that we were located in a single sheet roller hockey facility – Westcoast Roller Arena. We run youth and adult roller hockey leagues all year, which is pretty rare up here in Canada with such a heavy ice hockey dominance everywhere.
TM: How is roller hockey received in BC?
SH: Roller hockey has been well received up here, although it is limited to a few pockets: Langley, Victoria, North Vancouver are the largest leagues in the province, but we’ve also got a few other leagues running including up north in Prince George (8 hours away), Delta and Surrey. The sport really took off in the mid-90’s like everywhere else, mainly due to the Vancouver Voodoo and the availability of roller blades. After the Voodoo shut down, the Leagues were pretty established by then and we’ve maintained some good momentum right up until today. A second year-round roller hockey facility opened up a few years ago in Victoria, run by Gerry St. Cyr. It is great seeing another city get behind this sport by putting up another dedicated roller hockey rink.
TM: In many of the “big ice hockey states” here in the US (like Minnesota or Massachusetts), roller hockey has not been well received and knocked in many cases by the ice hockey purists. How is it in a huge ice hockey market like BC it does so well? Any advice to those trying to get roller hockey started in these types of states here?
SH: Believe me, we’ve had our share of ice hockey detractors that have looked down at roller hockey since the day we started in 1995. I think the sport has thrived in the province due in large part to the effort the local leagues made about 10 years ago to sit down together and share ideas, work together. In addition, we’ve been fortunate that there have been 1 or 2 key individuals in each area that really had a passion for this great game. They were able to help pull the sport together in their cities and keep it moving forward until others got on board to help them out. Once the leagues all got together and formed the BC Inline Hockey Association and could meet others with similar passion, I think it helped a lot of those individuals stay motivated for our sport. We were all able to share ideas and offer support to each other. This has resulted in stronger leagues and established strong relationships between all the different leagues.
TM: From the inaugural season of State Wars in 2005, there was interest from you in State Wars. Finally in 2009 we opened the doors to the Provincial teams, was it worth the wait? Tell me your thoughts on State Wars and what makes it so special to you and your players?
SH: Yes, it was certainly worth the wait. Creating a Team BC program has been something we’ve worked on for years, going back to the original Global Inline Hockey Festival in 1999. We’ve always felt that having a Provincial Team program would help the elite athletes continue to develop and compete. Further, we’ve always felt that a provincial team would give the sport more exposure in the province and help us attract new players. State Wars has definitely been what we expected and hoped for in creating an opportunity to develop Team BC program.
Being able to host a tryout process where kids are coming from all the different leagues in the province has really opened the eyes of players, parents and coaches. For a lot of them they are experiencing a higher level of competition than they are used to, and they are making new friends at the same time. We’ve already seen teams come back from SW talking about going to other events with their new teammates.
TM: Do you feel that the players and families in BC have fallen in love with State Wars and our concepts?
SH: Absolutely. The players that have been part of Team BC and went to State Wars the past 2 years can’t wait to go back. Some of the leagues that didn’t have players come out to tryouts in year 1 had players make the team this past season and they loved it just as much as the other players. They have told us they are bringing more players to tryouts in 2011. Hopefully we’ll be able to bring more teams next year.
TM: The BC teams as a whole are very talented and some of the best we’ve ever had at State Wars, what do you attribute to their great skill and success?
SH: I guess I would say there are 3 main reasons why the players are having some success.
First, like anything in life, it really comes down to the passion the kids have for the game. They want to play, and play as much as they can – on the street, in the rink, at school, etc. The Canucks are pretty popular up here, so the kids all eat, sleep and dream about hockey. Whether they are on shoes, ice skates or rollerblades it doesn’t really matter – they are playing hockey. The more they play it, even informally in pickup games with their buddies, the better their skills will become.
Secondly, with roller hockey having been around in the province for 15 years, we’ve got a lot of players and coaches that have experienced the game at so many levels and have been able to pass this on to the younger players coming up. I can remember taking teams to big events in the United States 10 years ago and everyone was in awe of the facilities, the crazy uniforms, the flashy equipment and more importantly, the distinct style of play. Ice hockey on wheels wasn’t good enough when you played the OC Blades, Honeybaked, Anaheim Bulldogs, Tour Blast, etc. Our players and coaches needed that experience to understand what it takes to be successful at the higher levels. Now we’re at a stage in BC where we’ve had a lot of people that understand the roller game and our teams are better prepared as a result.
Thirdly, with such a large ice hockey market, a lot of those kids come over to roller in the Spring and show up with a very high skill level.
With that being said, we know that every time we head south of the border that any past success is in the past. The teams at State Wars are too good to rest on anything that happened in previous years. If you aren’t prepared to compete and out work your opponent then you’re in for a short tourney. This past year showed how tough it is to do well at these events as we had 5 of our 6 teams medal in 2009, but only one of our teams managed a medal (1994 – silver) in 2010.
TM: How often do the Provincial teams practice after teams are selected?
SH: On average probably 5-6 practices before they head to State Wars. It really depends on where the players are coming from. BC is a pretty large province and we’ve got a lot of players travelling significant distances (8 hours) so practice times are limited.
TM: What states are you most impressed with?
SH: Great question! There were different reasons why different states were impressive. Skill wise, obviously the traditional roller hockey power states are always strong: California, Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, New York to name a few. Every year they are strong at every age. You know when you see one of those teams on your schedule that you’re going to be in a battle and the road to the title definitely is going through those teams. I’d have to include our Canadian neighbors from Alberta and our eastern rivals in Ontario in this discussion. Both are strong hockey markets that always put teams on the rink that you absolutely have to respect and be prepared to bring your A game. I also have to say that I was really impressed with many states that I really didn’t know had much hockey heritage. To see many of the southern states playing, competing AND succeeding is excellent. Watching the skill level of these players from non-traditional hockey markets was a real treat, but even further, watching their work ethic and sheer enjoyment of the game was outstanding. It’s great to see hockey being embraced everywhere. Meeting parents from Florida, Louisiana, was great.
TM: What are your favorite aspects of State Wars?
SH: State Wars definitely brings something different to the roller hockey world.
The custom uniforms are a great touch. Every team shows up with a brand new look and it is all matching. It certainly adds a level of professionalism to the look of the event, but it also creates a special feeling inside each player when they see their jerseys for the first time and get to pull them on for the game.
I was really surprised by the pin-trading. I had experienced pin-trading frenzy at the Olympics, but never at any another event to the same degree until State Wars. Walking in to the rink the first day and having players and parents come up to us right away looking for pins was pretty cool. It definitely created a special feeling at the event and allowed us to meet people from all over the US that we normally wouldn’t meet.
Team BC definitely came unprepared for that and I remember all the parents phoning home to our other BC teams that were coming down a couple days later and telling them to stock up on BC pins.
But definitely the best part of State Wars is the format. Playing for your province/state is something that is treasured by every player who pulls on those jerseys. It definitely means a lot to know you’re representing everyone back home, more so than wearing your local club team jersey. I still see a few of the Team BC jerseys around the rink during the rest of the year and you can see the pride on the kid’s face when he wears it. You can see the other kids at the rink have a special appreciation for what that jersey represents when they see those jerseys around here. We don’t see many, as most of the players have them hanging on their walls at home.
TM: Tell us about the awesome developments you have made with the school systems in BC and what this means for future players and Team BC players?
SH: We are pretty excited about this. Basically, the BC government has a program through the Ministry of Education that allows students to receive graduation credits for playing on provincial and national teams. About a year ago we submitted an application to the Ministry for roller hockey (specifically Team BC) to be included in the External Sport Graduation Program. The program had previously only recognized sports that had been around a lot longer and had a higher visibility than roller hockey (basketball, ice hockey, baseball, soccer, etc.). We received word in August that our application had been approved. Effective the 2010-11 school year Team BC 1994 athletes can get Grade 11 credits and Team BC 1993 athletes can get credits for Grade 12. It definitely helps us raise the profile of roller hockey in our province and our Team BC program specifically.
TM: Last year the first ever BC adult team came out and played in the huge 25-team Senior AA division, how was their experience?
SH: They had a great time. They were a little disappointed in how they played in the playoffs, but they definitely enjoyed the event. It was great to see the older guys get as excited about a tournament, jerseys, and representing their province as much as the kids do.