Roller hockey team skates to nationals
Published: Monday, February 25, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 25, 2013 23:02
They may not have ice under their skates, but one Miami University club sport has proven it can just keep rolling.
After four years of hardship, the club roller hockey team is in a good place. The team is competing in Nationals in April.
Its 2009 season was a different story, according to senior Paul Hinrichs, one of the team captains.
“We were so bad my freshman year that nobody came back to play,” he said. The team didn’t win a single game that year, so any post-season play was a no-go.
That’s when Hinrichs and fellow senior Ryan Costello decided to take on the leadership roles.
“We started building the team for sophomore year and since then we’ve kind of just been subtracting and adding pieces and players,” Hinrichs said.
According to Club Sports Athletic Director Mike Arnos, they’ve also served as the team’s president, coach, treasurer and magician for the last four years.
“What sets this roller hockey team apart is leadership,” Arnos said.
Along with playing games and practices, the two have invested a huge majority of their time in the club.
They’ve managed the budget of $15,000, worked with hotels, networked with other officials in the industry and recruited new members.
It is this dynamic that has led to a complete turnaround for the club roller hockey team.
“They went from a club that struggled to simply organize their finances and practices to one of our more well-organized club sports,” Arnos said.
As a first-year, Costello came to Miami wanting to play collegiate ice hockey. When he realized he would have been the smallest defenseman, he tried out for roller.
“It’s really fun to play competitive hockey, get away from Oxford and travel with the team each year,” Costello said.
Roller hockey’s national governing body, the National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (NCRHA), consists of about 70 teams in Division II and seven leagues.
Miami is ranked first in the Midwest league, followed by DePaul, Northern Illinois, Cincinnati, Western Michigan and Michigan Tech.
Certain things make roller hockey and ice hockey different games, and it goes beyond the rink surface, Costello said.
There are four skaters and a goalie on each team on the floor at a time, compared to five skaters in ice hockey.
The floor itself is similar to kitchen tile with thin boards around the plastic squares.
The puck, too, is completely different—it weighs significantly less than an ice hockey puck and is made of plastic. Roller hockey also has no blue line and no icing.
“Because of all this, it’s not as congested, there’s a lot more movement and a lot more offensive minded,” Hinrichs said.
Every Tuesday night, the group drives a little less than an hour to the nearest roller hockey rink in Cincinnati for practice.
Practices are low-key, but that’s because the team has always been more competition-focused, Hinrichs said.
“If we play in any way like we practice, it would be a disaster,” he said.
Enjoying the game is a huge part of the team dynamic for both Hinrichs and Costello.
“When I started doing this, I always said I wanted it to be a part of the Miami experience for the guys, not the whole Miami experience for them,” Hinrichs said.
Many of the 14 men on the team are involved in fraternities and organizations on campus, but still have roller hockey as a priority.
The captains just stress being on the same page at the beginning of the season.
“When everybody is working towards the same goal, everything tends to work itself out at the end of the day,” Costello said.
And what really sets this team apart is their friendships off the rink.
Five upperclassmen live in a house together and their basement has basically transformed into a roller hockey locker room for the whole team to store equipment.
“This team doesn’t just travel to games together and then never see each other again,” Hinrichs said. “We are competitive, but we also really like hanging out together.”
The one challenge the team has faced along the way is being recognized across campus.
“That’s the hard thing for us; we’re really excited about our season right now and we got our guys getting the word out,” Hinrichs said.
Costello said he gets a lot of questions around campus when he mentions what he does.
“Roller hockey is kind of a niche sport and unless you’ve played something like it, you don’t know what it’s like,” he said.
The team will continue to work the rest of the season, though, as it tries to defend a No. 1 seed spot at regionals in March.
“The ultimate goal though is nationals, we’re going to try our best to get there and win,” Costello said.
Arnos said he is incredibly pleased with where the team is at today.
“It took them a couple years of adjusting the team’s culture and organization but they have put together a great product and started getting other’s involved,” Arnos said.