View Full Version : Critical Issues of the Future of Roller Hockey
12-05-2004, 11:31 AM
How do we make local communities (if not the nation) conscious that: a.) semi-professional or professional roller hockey even exists in their locality, and b.) how do we "sell" the sport so fans have a motive to show up and pay their money. When I say show up, I mean have a respectable number of fans when compared to an ECHL game. We shouldn?t be a league competing with local men?s house leagues for attendance. Any fan can probably get better consumer satisfaction from a house league game (which also includes fighting) for their money?s worth. What can we offer that would provide for a unique patron experience? This experience must keep people coming back.
Progression needs to be more drastic, as such goals are obviously achievable. For example, let?s consider how the WHA was able to create an identity with the hockey-going public in literally a small number of years. The key point is that the WHA waited for the right time and made its move. They weren't successful because of problems like poor leadership and management. I'm sure less than one percent of hockey fans realize MLRH or XIHL exist. Perhaps we should also look to how arena football developed from its origin.
12-07-2004, 05:38 PM
I think an RHI type league would work well in UHL/echl type venues. small arenas (3-5000 seat) and in towns where they wouldn't have to compete against other Pro hockey teams. UHL type leagues work because they're in small cities that support there teams, for example: the WBS Penguins or the Wheeling Nailors.
12-07-2004, 05:40 PM
Sorry, this is long. Something I have wanted to say for a while, dcdonkey kinda brought it out. It isn't meant as a lecture. Just my observations & thoughts. bl
This is just my (not so) humble opinion, but to get fans is pretty simple. It is the pain part of the "simple" approach that few can tolerate.
A) Advertise, Advertise, ADVERTISE! Just like JC Ripme! Furniture gets customers into its store to buy overpriced junk, you have to let your customer (aka fans) know you are there. This is the pain part. Advertising cost $$. It is actually easier for the furniture store as their customer already knows what furniture is and that they need it. The store just has to convince them that they need it now and that the store is the place to get it. The potential roller fan doesn't know about the game yet. (And by fan, I mean just that, a honest to god, $$ paying, program buying, jersey wearing fan. Not a mom, pop, brother, buddy, girl, etc etc) So this advertising also has to educate the fan that roller is good and worth $$. With the NHL debacle, today's target is the ice fan. Give them their fix. Mostly educated about hockey and likely to give you a shot. Press Releases to the local newspapers are a must as well. If they give you a story, that is free advertising.
which leads to (even more pain) B:
The fan experience. You can spend all the $$ in the world to get the fan in the door, but if they don't have a good time, they won't likely come back. Even if the home team loses, they (the fan) better have fun. The presentation is (IMNSHO) far more important than the actual quality of the play at this point in time. Many of you here will likely disagree with that statement, but think on this: What is your game to the fan? It is their date, their fun nite out with the kids, it is the _ENTERTAINMENT_ for the evening. If the great game is a drag because the presentation of that game was horrible or, worse yet, started 35 minutes late because the visiting team was late, or a ref showed up without skates or all of the above, you will never see those "fans" again. And all the money you spent on your advertising, just got flushed away. This also goes into how the team looks and behaves. Frankly, a fan should never see (most certainly never smell) a hockey bag. Take a close at how college ice teams look and operate. Arrive early, look good and take the fan's experience serious. They might actually take you serious too.
Last but not the least, C:
The leagues have to get it together. I don't mean one big happy league. I mean a league of equals that actually works as opposed to just whomever says "Let's go" today. I think XIHL has a good start at this. My only hand on experience was with MLRH AAA and it was steadily improving prior to imploding. Slowly, but improving none the less. The league has to set some standards and stick by them. It has to provide the teams with the tools to operate and give them the assurances that rest of the league will operate so you can safely burn the $$ needed to build your "brand" The league has also got to protect the players. Make sure they know their sacrifices are getting the league somewhere which in turn, helps the player.
In retrospect, with the Warriors, I did ok with A. First year I did TV spots on cable (ESPN) and newspaper. Way to much $$. Second year I did radio & newspaper. Definately better bang for the buck. It was the B) part that I did poorly at. We tried, but the wrapping still looked pretty lame. C) was out of my control. Perfect case in point, best overall presentation we had, Warriors vs Jokers on weekend before Xmas. We had 220 pay at the gate. I had gotten my hands on 100 cowbells and put stickers on the bells that were pics of players I printed out. The players responded and gave us a very exciting game with a last minute come from behind to tie the game and an OT win for the home team. The roof just about came off that building from the noise of the bells and the fans. Absolute great time. Next home game? Feb 7th, more than 40 days later. I think I saw maybe 5 bells at that next game. Real bummer.
See, simple. For the record, I spent just over $50k in two seasons with the Warriors in trying to make it work. That is where that pain part comes in. Income against that $50k was just under $10k. That math only works at Eron.
Pain sucks :(
12-07-2004, 08:59 PM
agree 100% about the arenas, the buildings that all of these teams MLRH PIHA and XIHL are not fan friendly at all.. most of them are converted warehouses, no one wants to come sit in a cold warehouse and watch roller hockey...
look at some of the arenas that are played in....
Marple, hardly any seating... could barely hold the crowd it has last year for the MLRH finals, and on top of that its one of the smallest rinks in the league.... and from a players point of view... too small and no showers
next rink: feasterville, another small surface, playing games you can hear whistles and noise from the other rink that is 25 feet away from the one you are playing on, not very fan freindly.. like a sweat box in the spring and summer
extremes, probably nicest size floor that is played on but again not very good seating for the fans, a few sets of bleachers and thats it
Z rink = the nicest rink (playing surface) in the 3 leagues but what spectator area is there? not much, you have to stand up top or stand next to the glass, unless you are really luck and you get one of the 10 folding chairs in the place
this post is not to bash the arenas, but to make everyone realize that fans especially ones that do not have any affiliation with that home rink, do not want to go and sit in a warehouse and watch our sport... venue changes are the first of many steps to getting our sport recognized
take it for what its worth
Sorry to be picky, but your use of WBS Penguins is a little off on the analogy.
They are an AHL franchise, playing out of a contemporary 8100 seat arena, the Wachovia Center. They do draw 5000 to 8000 fans per game , so it is definitely a hockey center, and typical of towns that have local rivalries, with Binghampton just an hour away, Syracuse 2 hours, Albany 3 hours, Rochester 3.5 hours, Bridgeport 3 hours, Hartford 3 hours etc. etc. So although not ECHL, or UHL, the point is made. I think the true Pro Inline Leagues might have to start in rinks of 1500 - 3000 capacities ..if they can even be found, just for cost control.
The ironic thing, and a reflection on how little inline is marketed, is that Scranton an obvious hockey center, has one of the nicest one rink inline facilities in the North East(there is also an ice rink in the same complex).
Ice Box Two, with easy access just off the Scranton Expressway has a full Olympic size sport court rink (105' x 200' I believe) just completed in January of 04, room to put at least 10 rows of metal stands, to where between standing room, and seating, the place could host maybe 500 fans. There is room for a nice upstairs restaurant if the business justified it, etc etc.
This facility cannot get 10 players for men's inline open hockey.
Maybe the sport needs to do a whole series of demonstration games ...with the appropriate advertising in many of these smaller towns where going to a hockey game is still considered a major night out.
Really target market the sport by selecting towns that have the right sized arenas to start with. Show people the sport, create the fan base. A barnstorming roadshow tour would be fun.
It takes money but first it takes some serious thought and research ......
12-08-2004, 01:50 AM
Facilities has definately been a tradional problem for inline hockey in our area anyway. And that is the frustrating part, to actually get over 300 people at a game, and have a facility that doesnt support even giving the players a private place to call a locker room.
We did get some great press and the washington post is supposed to be running the article in thrusdays paper, for those folks in our area who want to see hockey but have no nhl or minor teams (ice) to watch that are within any kind of reasonable driving distance.
With all the youth players and the increase in college particaption, you would think that facilities would be interested in fans attending the games. But after all, most facilities just want their court time covered and dont care if its paid for by a birthday party rental or a hockey game.
I agree the "leagues" need to work together, We need a roller hockey "summit". Rich G... didnt we do this like 10 years ago ?
12-08-2004, 08:11 AM
Have you been to some of the ECHL buildings? Let's talk about dumps! Even the ice isn't done right! I don't think the arena has to be pretty, just functional for the purpose you need. Product and entertainment is the key.
12-08-2004, 09:39 AM
what fan wants to pay money to sit in a converted warehouse?? a professional arena should have more then 2 sets of metal bleachers to sit on
12-08-2004, 09:50 AM
But yet a lot of fans pay that money for minor league baseball to set on bleachers???? HMMM I guess the bleachers can't be the problems....It is that the facilities are not designed for the masses when it comes to fans....But the problem is that nobody has the money to rent the larger arenas for 1500-3000 in seating....Since we continue to always talk about why the sport isnt working in small facilities take this thought....I have 1 million dollars to donate once somebody gets a clue and gets this off the ground.....LOL just kidding about the money but what we need to do is get that kind of money to do what your talking about.... Lets appeal to the Large Companies.....See if we can get Tour or Rink Rat to fully sponsor a league together....They pick up the tab for the rink bill and you get to keep the money on the tickets...Just remember a tree doesnt grow in a day...A tree grows over many decades!!!
12-08-2004, 01:09 PM
hockey and baseball are two different sports with 2 different crowds, i'll sit through a yanks game in the bleachers no problem, but im not going to sit through a rangers or devils game on the bleachers.... what we offer needs to be appealing to the public eye... and face it right now it is not... we need, like you said, the sponsors to come foward and help get this off the ground, otherwise while its "pro" to us it is traveling rec league to the other 99.9% of the population
12-08-2004, 09:35 PM
>>I agree the "leagues" need to work together, We need a roller hockey "summit". Rich G... didnt we do this like 10 years ago ?<<
Yes, there have been these kinds of efforts in the past, but they've never really gotten very far because many groups can't see past their own interests. There have been a few "mergers" and meetings of minds in the past, but not enough to ease the fragmentation of our great sport, sadly.
I tried to get people in the industry together at three InLine Hockey News and Inline Hockey Central Athletes of the Year Awards ceremonies, but I lost my shirt on the last one when GameWorks in Las Vegas allowed people to enter through a back door. Those people didn't pay. One big skate company's rep even said, "Why should I pay $25 for dinner when I can eat for free in Las Vegas?" I couldn't defeat that kind of attitude, so I gave up.
If someone else takes up the gauntlet, I'll attend and gladly pay an entry fee, but I'm too burnt out to do it again myself.
Inline Hockey Central
12-08-2004, 09:36 PM
Doesn't Bill Gates have a son or two? Let's get his kids involved in our sport. Ka-ching! /wtimages/icons/smile.gif
Inline Hockey Central
12-09-2004, 04:37 AM
This idea of having one sponsor would be fine, but you have to realize why baseball works in facilities it does. It's there for the summer and is the primary client, therefore rent is cheap or non-existant. No arena will have an event of 40-games or less as a "primary" client and that's the problem. Rents go up.
I would like to see more facilities opened up like the one MLRH used in England or the stadium arena at the Laurel Ice Gardens. These have actual seats and provide a nice place to view a game. Unfortunately, to make a facility like this feasible, you'd need to fill the rink time all day, every day. You'd also need to offer some sort of extra to attract more people as well.
I've worked in Minor League Baseball, the appeal isn't the bleachers, it's sitting outside on a sunny day or nice evening with all the smells, etc., that have been built up over the last 125 years. It's a tradition.
Something also needs to be done with the pace of the game. I have heard from several people lately that the speed and tempo of high school ice hockey is better and I would be inclined to agree, especially after the game I saw tonight.
Something needs to be done with the game, something major. What's there isn't working and the sport will remain a recreational sport unless something can be done to attract and maintain interest in the fans.
I've enjoyed every game I've seen because it's different from ice. But I'm in the minority in this. Inline and ice are two different sports, but have "hockey" in them. Since inline is the younger brother, people expect it to be like ice. How do we make these changes but also maintain the integrity of the sport?
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12-09-2004, 04:49 AM
Well to be terribly honest, we tried to do this last year and I believe the outcome resulted in what is now AIHP. It brought together the 3 major players that are now involved in running PIHA/XIHL.
However that said, I still agree that a larger effort needs to be made to focus on where we are going with all of this. The one thing I can say about this sport is this:
So many people have ideas, complaints, and critism, but are so unwilling to step up to the plate. Now this isn't necessarily a insult, maybe just a reality of time and money. However as an owner of a pro team, who survived by being inventive for two years, I can atleast say I put my best foot forward. I dont have the all the answers and certainly dont have the money or contacts to help grow inline hockey. Im sure I have the same or less resources then everyone else who has ideas. So I say... Step up and do something about it. It's like we are waiting for someone to all of a sudden decide to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars at our sport and build this wonderful pro league. Well even if that were the case, which i believe it isnt we have to keep going for now. So step up!!! Contact the leagues with your ideas or offer your help, money, time to a pro team owner. Fan and player effort will only motivate the leagues and owners to make improvements.
12-09-2004, 04:55 AM
I agree completely, but again this is not a reality. We are better off trying to get into small venue arenas during off hockey season. However there are a few decent facilities that I have been to. For example: The Pepsi Centre in Buffalo, the ESL Centre in Rochester, Ice House is another one.
Which game was that?
My son and I have had the benefit of watching two well attended Wikes barre Scranton Penguins games this year...both against the Binghampton Senators...both close hard fought games.
I expect a scathing rebuttal coming after this post, for the fact that I should even bring up this comparison. I am looking at this comparing the best inline teams I have seen to an AHL contest.
I looked at the games with an eye not so much focussing on the spefics of the contest between the teams, but more at the levels of skating, stick handling, speed, shooting, goaltending, positioning, team play etc. etc...ie. excitement. One thing to keep in mind....I was not particularily cheering for one team or the other, so I did not have the benefit of pulling for the home team to goad my excitement. About the same way I would watch an NHL game between teams where I was not a fan of one or the other on TV.
Comparing the skating...
The best might have been better than the XIHL/MLRH "best", but not that much....however the overall level of skating was much more consistent throughout the teams. Not nearly as many exciting individual moves and one on one efforts though. The nature of the defensive coverage and the presence of the bluelines and off side rules of ice, tends to limit the explosiveness of the game...so while the individual skating skills were superior overall at the AHL level, the opportunity to put those skills to exciting use was much more limited...excitement from watching individual skaters use their talent....nod to inline.
Speed of the game...
With the broader lines (24") in place, and the reduced space behind the net you would have expected to see a bit more flow and scoring opportunites....didn't notice any change. Shots on goal about average with previous version of the game(25 - 35 approx.). They were enforcing the interference away from the puck more too, but the game did not seem that much faster than I recall in past years. Offsides still accounted for breaking up the most fast moving plays. Breakouts happened with more intensity and higher speed than a lot of the top inline games...definitely more aggressive forechecking, but having 5 on the rink instead of four makes this a bit easier to do.. The biggest difference in the two games affecting the speed of play was probably the intensity of the defensive coverage. The discipline of covering your designated man was far higher than I have noticed in even top inline hockey...due to this the "speed of play" nod I would give to inline...more high speed plays through the neutral zone, slower pace breaking out.
The nature of the closer defensive play and the extra player tends to inhibit the time a player has to make any moves at this level, so this is hard to really evaluate the relative skill levels. You can tell that the eye hand coordination is somewhat higher from the speed of the passing, and the ability to pick pucks from the air in the AHL game, but due to the nature of the game, you definitely will see more exciting moves in a top inline game...Nod for excitement goes to inline.
Actually I have seen more and harder shots during most "pro" inine games, Not to say these AHL players cannot shoot, but even in warm ups I was not "blown away" by shot velocities. Obviously the rules of inline hockey favor scoring chances a lot more, so it is to be expected that you will see more clear shooting opportunites during an inline game. Plus although played on a smaller surface, the four on four play tends to open up the shooting chances. Nod for shooting excitement definitely goes to inline.
The closer defensive coverage tends to slow play down somewhat, and means that offensive and defensive players are physically closer togehter, so the opportunity for massive hits was more limited than in inline. Actually like so many hockey games of any kind, the physical hitting ebbed and flowed....I would say the hitting was more effective in the AHL, and probably a little more exciting...nod to the AHL.
Definitely a step up....the reflexes were incredible to watch...excitement level nod to the AHL.
I think on an objective analyses...a good inline game has more instances of exciting plays to offer. Does the difference in skill level appear equal or dramatically inferior in the best of "Pro" Inline?...Maybe a little inferior..but not as much as you would think (talking Narch/Tohrs Pro level comparison, and also the best of XIHL and MLRH.) and certainly not enough to drag down the overall perception of the sport.
What makes an AHL game draw 5000 - 8000 fans and a "pro" inline game draw 150?...The answer: 1)awareness of the sport, 2) fan identification with the team, I would have to say are the primary reasons.
12-09-2004, 06:48 PM
Add ramps and a two point line. That should do it!!
12-10-2004, 02:13 PM
Really though...who ever saw a boring RHI game? I didn't for one. Maybe it's because I was watching the bullfrogs... maybe its because the RHI was awesome. That version of the game definately worked... who needs a square rink and ramps and recessed nets.
12-10-2004, 05:45 PM
It's not just cause you were watching the Bullfrogs (the team that current semi-pro teams should base their profesional goals on), your definetly right inline hockey is just simply more exciting to watch. A good example is that last year I used to go to Thunder games on Saturdays and then on Sunday me and some friends would always go to Hartford Wolpack games and honestly I would be bored out of my mind. This year the only two XIHL games I saw lacked a little compared to last two years of MLRH but it was still extremely exciting to watch. The excitement is what will draw the fans and current semi-pro teams should advertise themselves using that as their hook to all the local inline and ICE rinks and organizations especially to youth hockey. When teams can draw 200/300 people on consistent basis in a profesional enviroment (meet the players needs aswell as the fans in terms of a comfortable place to play) then people can decide whats the best direction to move in, meaning the creation of a true pro league. But right now to many people (including ALOT of tournament and inhouse players who train at rinks with semi-pro teams) are unaware of the entertainment that pro inline hockey can provide.
You'll miss 100% of the shots you never take.
12-10-2004, 09:33 PM
I can say that going to an opera is exciting, but why is it exciting?
The pace of inline is slower compared to ice in some cases. I've seen some slow moving ice games, but those are the minority. Why is it that inline is "definately more exiting to watch"? I enjoy watching inline games for the passing, scoring and how it develops kids into better ice players. I also like the fighting but that's because I grew up on Caps/Flyers in the 80's.
I'm looking for reasons and maybe we can build upon that, but by simply saying the same thing over-and-over doesn't help. A lot of people said Jai-Alai was exciting and it is. Where is it now? Frontons are gone except in Miami. You also have to understand it for it to be exciting and unfortunately, so does inline and not many people do. There is too much of a difference. For example, four quarters, timing of periods and penalties, 4-on-4, icing and offside (which are hard enough for the rookie fan anyway) are different, and jerseys/names are different. I'll give credit to Pro Joy who is supplying a lot of junior ice teams with jerseys that have an inline style with ice flair. The DC Mad Dogs and Virginia Wings had nice jerseys, I'd buy one of each. But, what the heck is a DC Mad Dogs and I've never heard of a Virginia Wing and I was born/raised in Virginia.
What we're looking for is how we can take ice fans and turn them into inline fans. How do we get them to make that transition on a regular basis. Arena football is similar enough to it's outdoor brother, but different enough to make it more exciting. It's higher scoring, you've got the net that's in play and you've got the boards.
The net provides weird bounces and the boards allows for some nice hitting which doesn't happen as frequently as it could in inline. I wouldn't mind seeing the nets at rinks in play. Most of the rinks now have nets all the way up and all the way around.
Something has to be different to get the fans in, something out of the ordinary. People went to see the nets in arena football and see what it was all about and got hooked. People go to inline and say, "it's just like ice just on a floor" and don't get hooked. We need a hook to keep this sport going toward the major professional ranks and away from the kitsch that ESPN put on TV several times.
Corporate sponsors outside of the inline ranks would help greatly. Imagine getting Coca-Cola involved and to protect their investment, they showcase the sport (in league form) in their ads. Look at what beer companies do now, they have TV ads centered around football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey. This keeps fan attention and awareness of both products is there.
I like that Rink Rat, Concrete Pond, etc. are involved, but the NHL was not made on CCM, Bauer and Sherwood. Even the ECHL and AHL have a ton of corporate sponsors that are respected outside of the sport.
Just some more thoughts on developing inline to what it could be. Some of you may say, "he's nuts", some may agree with me. I've got a sports background and have seen teams and leagues fail for one reason or another. I don't want to see either the XIHL or MLRH go the way of RHI.
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12-10-2004, 11:34 PM
In your reply you make alot of connections to ice hockey. While I agree it's important to start having more crossover players and fans I disagree that we should change anything or create a "hook" to draw current ice fans and players in because it's different. That is exactly what Pro Beach Hockey and Speedhockey were, gimmicks that distinguished themselves from ice. Neither exactly had a fairytale ending (not sure whats going on with Speedhockey at the moment but the Pro thing looks dead). Back to my original point that inline hockey is more exciting than ice, it just is. I started out as an inline player before crossing over to ice so I might be a bit biased in my opinion but the passing, shooting, and skating agility of some players (CJ Yoder, Kirk French, Eric Weichselbaumer, Gerry St. Cyr, etc) just can't be seen in ice (even when those same players are on ice) because of it's overstructured 5 on 5, blueline, 2 line pass system. Roller hockey being 4 on 4 with half-court offsides and modified icing allows for a more offense oriented game which is what fans will come to see. If you ask a person at a pro ice hockey game who doesn't play hockey or follow it what they understand and are watching for, they are most likely going to say that there looking for the goals and fighting. Inline hockey has plenty of offesnse so goals and shots will be more plentiful then in ice which will draw fans and it we also have a fair share of fighting, and when theirs a fight the current semi-pro fans get into the game their watching by that much more, and I can't see any reason it would be different for new fans? So since alot of ice hockey fans don't understand alot of rules of that game nethier do inline fans even tho its not that hard to figure out. The real question is how do you portray these exciting traits to potential fans. I already mentioned that get your current ice/inline players interested by posters, flyers, word of mouth at rinks. Once you can get a steady amount of these people coming, then shoot for things like cable advertising where video footage can be used to get peoples attention (footage such as that of the Elite League highlights would be very effective) and then a real pro league can start. But keep it OUR game the things that were criticized as confusing (offsides, 4 on 4, period length) make it our own and separate us from ice hockey. Ice is great but the NHL didn't do so hot this year either. If we keep progressing in terms of professionalism among the teams we have, im positive that the goals people have set can be reached in the future.
You'll miss 100% of the shots you never take.
12-11-2004, 05:28 PM
Gerry St. Cyr can't be seen on the ice? You probably want to ask to Ottawa Senators why he was in their system for so long. He is actually the starting defenseman of the Senators in one of the older NHL hockey video games. If any player with as many years PROFESSIONAL ice hockey experience isn't seen on the ice, then maybe I'll have to watch baseball or something from now on.
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12-11-2004, 06:40 PM
I specifically stated that even when those players are on ice the things they are capable of in roller hockey can't be repeated do to the structured nature of ice hockey......"even when those same players are on ice". All I was trying to say was they are all extremely exciting to watch, and was using them as an example of what will attract fans.
You'll miss 100% of the shots you never take.
12-12-2004, 05:12 AM
What makes the pace of the game slower is the attitudes of the players and the organizations involved in inline hockey. Players stay on for 2 minute shifts and dont give it their all 100% of the time on the rink. If there was creditabilty in our leagues and sport in general, teams and coaches would demand nothing less, but that is not the current status of inline hockey. Maybe why the RHI worked, because they handed out a paycheck and the appearence of structure atleast existed.
Philosophicaly inline has evolved from more of a leisure/recreational off season sport than ice which has long had the disciplines of elite hockey handed down from the upper levels. In fact inline was more often an escape from this. Hence the greater focus on individual talent development, than team play and individual discipline.
As the players who have never been exposed to the much more rigid disciplines of ice hockey development, evolve up into the elite levels of inline, they may bring some fresh and exciting individual talents, but less discretion about where and how to best apply them.
Again this becomes a philosophical point. Do we begin to create a training and coaching regimen within the sport of inline similar to ice..which will actually help the long term development of skill players from the point of view of team play and more "game awaremness", but at the same time reduce the learning freedom, and some of the current "fun factor" of the sport?
I think that the answer will lie within the nature of the sport. The open play of inline will always present more opportunities for individual expression within the game..no matter which set of "rules' is used. However mimicing the disciplines of ice hockey, at least in terms of teaching skating and positioning, would serve to ultimately enhance and advance the overall skills that come from the freedom of inline play.
Even ice hockey is going through the "great debate" as to whether less time should be spent during the "formative years" on team play and strategy, and more on individual skills development.
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