Hockey in America is seeing growth in players year after year! The game has never been faster and never been more popular at the youth level. There is one professional league, that is hoping the fuel that growth even more, but in the roller hockey sector of the game. The National Roller Hockey League is taking the latest growth of all the major roller hockey tournaments such as NARCH, TORHS, and StateWars, and the general growth of hockey, to create the next big thing for the game… a professional league that will get everyone excited about the sport of roller hockey.
Why does the National Roller Hockey League plan to do this?
The founders of the National Roller Hockey League, want a professional national league in North America because, since the late 90’s, one hasn’t existed. There are smaller “pro” leagues in popular roller hockey markets, but nothing that connects them. Perhaps, the best “pro” hockey in the roller game, is at the summer tournament series. However, while these tournaments offer a cash prize, it isn’t enough for the players to survive on. So the NRHL is looking to do something about this, and feature great pro level roller hockey all summer long. Not just for three weekends out of the summer.
In addition to the lack of a national league, the National Roller Hockey League wants to grow hockey, specifically roller hockey. They want both kids and parents to realize that hockey can be affordable and there is a way you can play without the expensive cost of ice times. In addition to the cost for rinks, the equipment can be cheaper. (I’m not going to mention the Bauer Vapor 1XR as that is the exception) However, the equipment for skates and girdles can be cheaper. Also, most players don’t wear shoulder pads and instead, wear a protective shirt, which also cuts down on costs. These savings can help a family decide between hockey or a different sport.
In addition to the cost factor, another big reason the founders want to grow the game through a national league is to have an end goal for all the kids playing the game at the youth level. As of right now, if you are one of the best roller players, there isn’t much opportunity. A handful of colleges offer partial scholarships. There is also winning the summer tournaments for cash prizes. However, it’s not enough to make a living from. The other way to get rewarded is being a sponsored player. Most sponsored players get their equipment for free and their flights to tournaments paid for. However, that is about it. The National Roller Hockey League wants to change that. By having a league that pays players a decent wage, they can create an end goal for these excellent players to aspire to. They are also hoping that there is a trickle-down effect and more colleges will start having programs and more scholarships. By having a national league in place, better players will not have to go to Europe, or just play the summer series, they will have more options to go with their skills.
The National Roller Hockey League is hoping to set the new standard for how the game will be played in North America! They have a very grassroots plan that will help fuel the growth of the game!
How will the league work?
The league will function as a true professional league. Think of the major leagues (NHL, NFL, MLB) but roller hockey. Cities will have a franchise. Those franchises will be owned by people who are passionate about growing the game. There will be national and local sponsors. The league will have real stadiums meant for hockey, will host the games. (That way it doesn’t feel like you’re going to watch men’s league at the local rink!) The players will play for a city and be paid like a true pro. The vision for the National Roller Hockey League is just like every other league!
The league is hoping to get fully underway by late spring of 2019 as it’s true inaugural season with six franchises (An original 6 if you will). However, the league has run two trial seasons with a small group of players and teams out of Detroit. It has worked flawlessly. The league has awarded it’s first official franchise, the Detroit Dragons. They hope to announce a team out of St.Louis very soon!
The way a franchise works is that an individual or a group of individuals pays a franchise fee. In addition to the fee, they have to have a venue of 3,000 – 10,000 stadium seats to ensure a proper stadium environment. The owners must also have the business plan and funds in place not only to pay for the arena, and the franchise fees but also the players, housing for the players, and the staff that come with running a team. The franchise makes money through the way all the other leagues make money, ticket sales, national and local sponsors and other additional revenue sharing. Once the franchises are in place it is time to get players!
The National Roller Hockey League hopes that the way a team will be built in the early years is to have a good mix of players, from both ice and roller hockey disciplines. They want a similar lineup to how pro teams are structured now for the tournaments. These teams are made up of guys who have pro ice hockey experiences such as Pat Maroon, Cal O’Reilly, Brandon Bollig, Bobby Ryan, and others and combine them with strictly roller hockey pros such as Cody Kettler, Corey Kettler, Kevin Dwyer, Travis Noe, Jason Stross, Corey Hodge and more. Teams would be able to do a good mix of players due to the roller hockey season being played during the summer months. The players would reside in the community they play for, and be fully apart of the community just like any other sports league. The eventual goal of the league is to have strictly roller hockey only players play. By having this goal, it ties directly into their grassroots effort goal of having kids at an early age want to play roller hockey.
When does the plan all come together?
While the National Roller Hockey League is just starting, the founders know they have a long road ahead. However, their model league is similar to the MLS as it started out much the same. They had smaller arenas, a small number of teams, and ownership groups that helped grow the league. Now the MLS has larger franchises with stadiums built just for soccer such as the Chicago Fire and Sporting KC. The MLS is also bringing soccer stars from Europe over to help add legitimacy to the league. The MLS is starting to make it’s waves here in the states and is a great blueprint to follow. By following in the MLS’s footsteps, it can help add benchmarks to the growth of the league and is a good measuring stick.
The MLS model also helps reach back to the grassroots portion of the game. Soccer is also a growing sport in the states. Now, with some of the bigger names in the game coming over, soccer is at the forefront of potential new player’s minds. The National Roller Hockey League is hoping to do just that as well. By having premiere athletes, role models for kid’s to look up to, and plenty of opportunities whether professionally or academically, they can decide on playing roller hockey at an early age. This model is great to follow and will help grow the game!
With the growth of such a great game and hockey participation on the rise, there has never been a better time to help out the growth of the general game of hockey! The National Roller Hockey League is going to be the premier league that puts roller hockey on the map!