View Full Version : New leagues -- same concerns
08-16-2001, 01:40 PM
A quick preface to my post: I admire and appreciate the efforts of ALL the people who have been involved in professional roller hockey. It is not easy to be a pioneer -- especially when everyone has an opinion. It is not my intent to attack these people.
With that said I think we should all take a step back and look at the situation surrounding professional roller hockey.
First ? lets look at players. The top roller hockey players in the world (as noted in posts on this board) are NARCh PRO players. These players are traveling from across the country (and maybe the world) to play with only their costs being covered.
POINT 1: Players exists and right now they do not cost a fortune.
Next lets look at the rinks. Rinks of all sizes have been a part of professional roller hockey. Rinks seem to be available to the professional roller hockey community. The amount of seating capacity has varied? the fact that they capacity is not being met has not.
POINT 2: Rinks are available? but you need butts in seats to pay for them.
As for the quality of the actual product ? NARCh PRO games are almost impossible to get a seat at. Collegiate Roller Hockey League (CRHL) games between top-notch rival schools have drawn very large crowds WITHOUT even having an advertising budget.
POINT 3: People are eager to watch high-quality roller hockey. As the CRHL has seen ? they will pay reasonable amounts of money to do so.
So based on these three points what have the leagues of the past (and by the looks of it possible the future) done wrong? First they are trying to hard to ?rework? the money side of pro roller hockey. Paying players per game, per team, per season? whatever. Paying rinks part of the gate, set fees, whatever. It doesn?t matter. What pro roller hockey needs is a fan base. Fans are, believe it or not, actually smart. They recognize a quality product. Put the best ROLLER HOCKEY in front of them and they will flock to see it. Have NARCh PRO style games with NARCh PRO players in an actual league and people will go crazy for it. Put semi-pro ice hockey players on roller skates and tell them to start smashing each other into the boards and people will see it for what it is ? junk. I have fairly recently seen a professional ?roller hockey? game. I left at halftime -- and I am a full-fledged roller hockey fanatic. If they can?t keep me in the stands? who?s watching? I want to see roller hockey? not people grinding the puck along the boards. They have a league that does that? it?s called the NHL. And I don?t think pro roller hockey wants to compete with that.
If you build a real roller hockey league they will come. Fans make a pro sports? not financing strategies or cost structures.
As a fan? PLEASE play the game I love. I will watch it. I will follow it. I will pay to see it. I will buy merchandise. Just please, please, please start playing ROLLER HOCKEY!
08-16-2001, 02:14 PM
I agree for the most part.
One thing is that you won't draw a croud of more than 500 people, unless you have top players. Those top players make the game more exciting, which in return draws more people.
Here lies a problem.
If you can't pay your top players, then they won't come and play. These guys have other jobs that they go to. Some play in minor leagues for ice hockey, and some work regular jobs, with a good salary.
These guys won't come out and play unless they will get some money that can cover themselves pretty well for the season.
These guys come out to NARCH because its more of a weekend thing, and their sponsors will cover their cost, except for the beer. The NARCH Pro players do it because it doesn't take a whole lot of time away from their normal jobs.
I don't know how RHI didn't for several years, but it worked for the most part.
I have a great amount of respect for those trying to create a pro league, because it isn't an easy task. It takes a lot of time and effort, as well as a lot of money.
08-16-2001, 02:28 PM
Having the league out west, sorry that's what you have to do if you want the best players. The Yoder's etc have shown they will spend the summer out there if necessary.
The west also has the base to actually go to games, put the Sutton's, Goodwin's, Bones, etc in a league where kids can go and watch their heroes play week after week.
Fighting is lame, but so is stickwork, its an evil either way
The best hockey right now outside of NARCh PRO is the league out west where essentially Mission, Hyper and the Tour/Labeda guys play against each other on a certain weekday night in So Cal. Week in and week out those guys beat the crap out of one another, its like seeing the NBA pros playing at your local gym in the summer..
DCDawg: Paying for beer is a large part of a sponsors job at NARCh.
08-16-2001, 05:22 PM
I appreciate you taking the time to share your opinions on the subject. I want to get as much input as I can in my efforts to start a new league. I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I'm going to challenge you again on the checking issue
I have two points of view on this. First I have been involved in pro roller hockey from 1994 - 1999. I saw the peak in 1994 when the Stampede won the RHI Championship in 1994 and there was over 15,000 screaming fans in the stands. Even when the Wings played in tiny Buffalo State Hockey Arena, we were near capacity at 1,800. The percentage capacity doesn't matter. I sat in the stands and witnessed the fans cheer everytime there was a body check; when Mark Major stood somebody up on a open-floor check or when Martin Woods literally put someone through the glass. It is my direct experience that tells me that fans want to see checking.
Second, as I have mentioned in previous posts, the Wings have operated the Junior WIngs in Major Junior A Roller Hockey League since 1998. These are some of the best young, amateur hockey players in North America. Many of these kids play in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and some of the have been drafted by NHL teams. As I said, these are some of the best hockey players in N.A. They play ice in the winter and roller in the summer. The MJARHL has some of the best competition around. It is a no-check league (although fighting is prevalent). And you know what, we can't give tickets away. We have never had more than 50 people attend a game (and these are usually family members) despite spending money to advertise the games. Every player in our house league gets a free ticket to Junior Wings games and still no one shows up. In the past, we've had double-headers with the pro team and no-one shows up. What does this tell me, again from my direct experience? That fans want to see checking. These are the best players in Western New York and Southern Ontario. The Junior Wings have usually played .500 hockey or better. We've had giveaways and run the games like they were pro games. Still no-one. My staff and I have traveled to some of our road games and we've outnumbered the home fans. We had games on weekdays and weekends. Still no-one.
I absolutely agree with you that NARCh Pro is the best roller hockey around right now. I hope many of these players will play in our new league. But that doesn't mean that NARCh Pro style roller hockey will sell in Buffalo or any other city where fans are used to seeing their hockey with body contact (Northeast NHL cities in particular).
I also don't doubt that the CRHL games get great attendance and are great games to watch. I'm really excited to see some games this year as Coach of the University at Buffalo team. Maybe many of those in attendance are students and friends of the players. If not, maybe these fans have never known any other hockey than no-check hockey. There's no doubt that these players are quality roller hockey players and I hope to see many of them play in our new leagues.
There are two divided camps on this issue. I will tell you that if after one or more seasons, I get feedback that a majority of our fans want to see checking removed from our game then I'll take it out. If it's only a minority, then I'll tell them to go buy a ticket to a Junior WIngs game or a UB game. Unitl then I have to go with my instincts and experience and include checking in our new league.
By the way, I was in Florida a few weeks ago specifically to watch NARCh Pro games and I didn't have any trouble finding a seat. In fact many of the people in attendance for the Pro Final were holdovers from the Gold Opening Ceremonies (not a bad idea by Paul Chapey). Were those people there because there was no checking? There were there to see the best players. The games I saw were pretty physical and came close to checking without actually "allowing" it.
Vice President of Operations
Buffalo Wings Roller Hockey
08-17-2001, 08:15 AM
I actually agree with The GM on this one.
The sport is much more popular out west, knowing that from experience because I grew up in Colorado. Having a league involving teams from California, Arizona, and maybe a team in Las Vegas would be a definate gold mine. If you look at RHI attendance records, the cities that drew the most fans were: San Jose, Anaheim, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas. Their fan base was consistant. I know for a couple years San Jose has an average of 8,000 fans a game, for an entire season.
I definately think a pro league would work out west.
08-17-2001, 04:13 PM
I think the former MLRH-AAA and new NARHL actually might be onto something though, guys.
You're forgetting, alot of the teams that will be involved will be MLRH-AAA teams, so I imagine the AAA (not pro) mentality will prevail. I don't think you'll see players like Sutton, Marsalek (sp), etc. in a league like this for a few more years. I was shocked when CJ said he was playing, and I'll be even more shocked if he plays again for the Gladiators over the winter.
But, look at what the Gladiators did in the first season. Basically, from a national standpoint, aside from CJ, everyone on that team is a no one. Not to disrespect the team, but I don't think anyone outside of the Philly area has heard those names, certainly not as well known as CJ. But, THAT IS THE REASON WHY THEY DREW FANS! Because people from the Philly suburbs area had grew up with these folks, played with them, thought they were good guys. So, it was like coming out to see their friends play. They brought their kids and such.
It was a pretty grassroots approach. The same sort of approach that is making the CRHL better and better each season.
Andy -- I thought the same thing as you. I wanted PRO ROLLER HOCKEY, not pro ice-hockey on wheels. And, after seeing the Riot-Firebirds game at the beginning of the MLRH-AAA season, I was irate. Some guy got 150 stiches to his face, and he was about my age, going to work the next day, etc. They had to recontruct his nose. I thought I was watching scrub hockey. And, I think to this day I was. No one could hit; it was like watching a mosh pit in the corners. Plus, the true roller hockey players weren't used to being hit in the first place, and they were getting kind of upset.
But, the Gladiators-Crush game was a different story. There was good checking, good end-to-end roller hockey-type action, and no chippiness. It was a great game. And the moment someone went to check in the middle of the floor, Bill Taggart called him for two minutes, and that was the end of it. The tight checking along the boards definetely caused the crowd to 'pop' for a good check, etc.
As far as the west coast goes, what if something like AAA or this proposed NARHL started up out there? I mean, look at it folks. You have essentially the same elements that started the CRHL right there if that happens. Leagues in different areas of the country, and all you need is some national body to come along and unite them, and we have an established national "pro" league.
I think it's all pointing forward right now. We'll see what successes or failures the NARHL has, and I think that is the next major stone in rebuilding pro roller hockey. If quality leadership surfaces out west, and Benny's league is successful, wow, it's halfway there.
What do you think?
- John S. Osborne
Secretary, Drexel U. Roller Hockey Club
LAL Director, ECRHA
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