Roller hockey prez

Darren Goodwin

Photo By David Robert

For the last two weeks, the North American Roller Hockey Championships (NARCh) has held its Annual Winternational event downtown at the new Reno Events Center Arena. Roller hockey is a young sport, having gotten its start in the early 1990s. Since the first championships in 1994, which hosted 38 teams, it’s caught on rapidly. Last year’s finals hosted 376 teams. But roller hockey is still relatively unknown. Darren Goodwin, president of NARCh, tells us a little more about it.

What is Winternational?

This is its 11th year. We’ve done it in Vegas the last few years, and this is the first time we’ve been in Reno. It’s followed up by Regional Qualifiers. Teams will have to participate there, and then they get invited to come to our main event, which is the NARCh Finals. So this kicks off our season.

Is roller hockey just like ice hockey, except on roller blades?

It’s slightly different. Same size rinks. It’s played four-on-four, rather than five-on-five. A lot of people like it because there’s more scoring, it’s more wide open, more for skilled players. There’s a little more freewheeling, I guess.

Have you ever played?

I’ve played ice hockey since I was 6. I played semi-pro hockey for the Fresno Falcons. I played on Team USA in roller hockey for five years. So when somebody comes up and complains about a call, I can pretty much shoot them down because I know the sport very well.

Where do the teams come from?

It’s a unique sport because teams get comprised a whole bunch of different ways. You can take kids off of two ice hockey teams, combine them together to play in this event, or it could be a bunch of kids from a local league, or it could be a whole organization, like a lot of the major facilities around the country who’ll have a full travel program to bring to our event.

Tell me about the teams at this year’s Winternationals.

There were 174 teams. We’ve got quite a few from the UK, a team from Japan, quite a few teams from Canada. And of course all over the United States. The only time they get to see each other is at an event like this.

What’s the best thing about roller hockey?

It’s exciting. If you’re a hockey fan, and you came out and watched a high-level roller hockey game, you’d be impressed and would enjoy it. You don’t have quite as much structure as you do in ice hockey. The fact that it’s only four-on-four allows you to use more of the rink space and be creative.

What’s the toughest part?

If you’ve never played, probably stopping.

Are there a lot of injuries?

Yes. Probably not as many as ice hockey, just because it’s not quite as physical. Just your typical stuff. You can get high-sticked, you can get hit with a puck, and it doesn’t feel good, stuff like that.

If someone wanted to take up roller hockey, what should they do?

I’d check with the rinks first and find out what kind of program they’ve got. From there, a lot of those rinks will take the best players and put together a good travel team. Those are the teams that come to events like this.

Why hasn’t roller hockey really taken off yet?

We’re just to the point where people are starting to have kids that may have grown up playing it, and we’re just starting to see a second generation.

Can you watch it on TV?

No, but I’ve been working on that. My obstacle is the fact that ice hockey ratings are so bad.

How can people learn more about NARCh?

Log on to www.narch.com. Results are posted on that, too.