View Full Version : Sad Commentary
07-25-2006, 08:22 PM
This is a disappointing story to read, but should be told:
<A HREF="http://www.mississauganews.com/mi/sports/story/3605447p-4167821c.html" target="_new">http://www.mississauganews.com/mi/sports/story/3605447p-4167821c.html</A>
Inline Hockey Central
07-26-2006, 02:10 AM
We all see this...
Our beloved sport is becoming a fringe cult sport...and barely discernable on the "participant numbers horizon."
Our local league is down from 300-plus players to only about 125, in only a single year.
We don't have any local youth divisions of play anymore...one, four team div. of U-18's, and three divisions of teen-adult divisions. That's it...
Potential new players are going elsewhere. In the nineties, every little kid had rollerblades in the closet or under the bed. It was easy to translate "Hey, I can skate!" (no matter how well) into "Hey, I can skate, I bet I can play hockey!"
No little kid has skates anymore...
To get 'em to jump to "Wow! I might like to try hockey" without ever having skated is tougher than ever.
of course, everybody has a dozen other sound reasons for the sport's decline, probably truth in all of 'em.
I would like to see somebody come up with sound suggestions for turning this around.
Even Joe Cook lamented the problem last October at the Las Vegas "summit" meeting, with little suggestions coming from anybody at the time as to how to make it work.
USA Hockey's response is to get out of the youth tourney business.
AAU's response is to hype the empty "Junior Olympics" logo into meaningless-ness.
NARCh, TORHS, et al...all quality organizations, with a quality product. But by the very pyramidal approach to their service, they tend to drive kids away from the sport without meaning to.
I am very discouraged by this. I see only little pockets of participation in the future, and nothing more.
<font color=purple>DannyG</font color=purple>
07-26-2006, 02:49 AM
It's difficult to see what's happened to the sport of inline hockey and avoid becoming a nay-sayer, or being accused of only looking at the dark side. However, it seems that a very few people are making big money on the sport, and giving very little back, and it's hard not to get bummed out. I'm not going to point any fingers, and I don't want anyone else to follow this post up by pointing fingers. But I can clearly remember how huge house leagues were -- and how quickly they died when the focus turned toward the elite players and ignored the house-league inline hockey players.
A microcosm of that problem is the beach scene in Santa Monica, which once was HUGE. There would be five or six different games going on at once on weekends. Bit by bit, however, the best players took over the "A" court, only picked their best buddies for their team, and then held on to the court for hours at a time. If they lost, they might sit out for a game, while the second group of elite players beat the crap out of a thrown-together team... and then the first team would be right back on the court. After a while, participation dropped off, because it was the same damn guys playing against each other all the time. How was an average player supposed to get better if he couldn't play against the best?
So, a few ruined it for the rest.
Solution? Well, you can't turn back the clock. I don't think that inline hockey summit a while back changed anything. You were there. Do you?
Inline Hockey Central
07-26-2006, 04:58 AM
The article about inline hockey in England is just flat out poor journalism. The reporter uses a single source. Can we assume Mr Chesire's observations represent and or agree with every other player, coach and parent at NARCh? Out of all the British present at NARCh, no one had an opposing viewpoint to Mr Chesire? Whether we agree with Mr Chesire's opinion or not is irrelevant, but the obvious lack of additional opinion makes the article appear as if it were agenda driven. Shame on the writer.
Danny G said: "NARCh, TORHS, et al...all quality organizations, with a quality product. But by the very pyramidal approach to their service, they tend to drive kids away from the sport without meaning to."
Can you back that with some facts Danny? I firmly disagree with that statement and I think it's foolish.
Consider that NARCH and Torhs tend to KEEP the high end and average players in the game. They present well run events that people spend a lot of money to attend. It is pure consumerism in that the participants and parents vote with their pocket books and support these events.
Torhs and NARCh have never presented themselves to be anything more than a tournament series. In a healthy sport, they should coexist with a strong NGB. The NGB should be performing functions that funnel new players into the base of the pyramid. Torhs and NARCH help to keep those players in the sport, ideally supporting house leagues. If the better players (the cool guys) leave the sport, you know kids, they start to think the sport itself is lame.
Furthermore Danny G, I believe Torhs and NARCh's numbers are up over prior years, but at the same time, your house leage is sufffering. In fact, your numbers are abysmal. To fault an organization like NARCh, which has had extended success far longer than your house league, and somehow blame them for your failure, without solid evidence, is pretty miserable.
I think USAHIL and NARCH are on to something and will truly work together to allow NARCH to do what it does best and also USAHIL to focus on their operational and organizational strengths. We'll see.
USARS tells us it is the NGB of the sport. Although I think that's an empty claim, since inline is not an Olympic sport, they still cry the mantra.
USARS and its kissin' cousin, AAU, should get out of the tournament business. AAU is absolutely excess baggage in the sport. USARS outsources tournaments to AAU, in other words, USARS doesn't want to run events.
But what does USARS do, in addition to reminding us that they are the NGB of the sport? Very little, in fact I would welcome input from anyone who might inform us of what they have done for inline.
USARS and USAHIL should be the organizations working with facility operators and aggressively marketing inline so that new players can experience this great sport. And by the time they can play Torhs or NARCh, everyone is happy.
07-26-2006, 05:10 AM
You make a very good point when you say that using one viewpoint makes for a pretty weak argument. But do you remember when inline hockey was huge, and the participation numbers were going through the roof? That didn't have to end, in my opinion. Was it all a big fad? I don't believe it. Something turned off those millions of people who were putting on inline skates and joining inline hockey leagues across America (and the world).
What do you think happened? Was it simply a fad, like the hula hoop?
Inline Hockey Central
07-26-2006, 05:38 AM
Guys opened rinks during the perfect storm period of the sport. They had everything going for them. There was a pro league on TV, a pro league in the big buildings, Gretzky was playing in LA, there was a shortage of ice surfaces, especially in the Sunbelt and most of all, it was new and happening. Inline was cool. This created an ideal environment for "If I build it they will come". And that they did.
But the guys who opened rinks never marketed the sport and they never had a strong marketing partner, that is, an NGB to create programs and help get new kids into the sport.
Does inline have the equivalent of T ball? Nope. Do rinks get out into the community, into the schools and market the sport? Nope. Does the NGB help? No way.
When guys were opening rinks in SOCal in the early 90s, USARS was the NGB and I bet you the Hearns and Gibos and Gretzky Center folks never spoke a word to USARS. That is, USARS was never involved. Just a bunch of empty blue blazers.
The problem that has existed for many years now is that the perfect storm has blown over and many years ago, rinks should have realized that they have to run their facilities like a real business. They have to keep the pipeline full. Just like any business, you have to generate customers. Get leads, turn them on and convert. Then keep your customer.
Think about it. The sport hasn't changed. It's a sport that was custom made for kids. Kids love it once they gain a little confidence. It's a "stuff" sport, filled with things kids love, wheels, bearings, unis, sticks and on and on. Inline as a product is powerful, it's just not being marketed.
A strong Pro league, presented the right way on TV, could turn things around overnight. Forget the Olympic dream, get it on a 50 inch Plasma with Pro guys making moves, wearing killer Projoy jerseys and state of the art camera work and a cool rink environment and it would be the early 90s all over again.
07-26-2006, 09:11 AM
I don't know where the money would come from...but you hit the nail on the head. A good, unified pro league on TV would help the sport out tremendously. How can we expect our sport to grow when the average person still thinks "Rollerblades and street hockey" when you tell them you play roller hockey / inline hockey. I coach the roller team at Florida State University and it drives me nuts when I hear the "We have a hockey team comment". I know it is the south and I can somewhat understand it. If it isn't football, most people don't pay attentino. We are working on the marketing aspect to get our TEAM's name out there. But at least these people know what hockey is. The disheartening comment is when I tell people about our team and they ask us if we play on tennis courts.
The potential growth of our sport is hindered if it isn't even recognized. For example, most people know what the sport of golf looks like. Whether they are interested in playing it or not. So if a father were to ask his son "Do you want to take golf lessons" the son has a good idea of what he is getting into. How many kids (or parents) have turned their back to our sport because they invisioned tennis courts and mylec sticks.
A pro league on TV could help people visualize what our sport really has to offer.
Maybe the first step would be to get major networks (ESPN2 or similar) to broadcast some national championship amatuer games. Narch? College? Whatever...
07-26-2006, 09:17 AM
Johnny hit it on the head IMO.
While I disagree that a pro league is necessary, what is absolutely CRUCIAL is the grassroots effort. NARCh and USAHIL working together allows USAHIL to focus their efforts more effectively, but what the sport truly needs is a solid group of people working to promote the sport to the kids who aren't even on skates yet - that means local rink directors and increased community awareness. Some of that falls on USAHIL, some of that falls on people who see the sport failing in their towns.
The 'gold rush' of inline hockey has come and gone - the people who were in it to make money have largely moved on to newer, more profitable ventures. What that leaves is a sport that is now out of financial reach for many; in quite a few areas of the country, roller is at or near the same price as ice hockey. A large part of what drew people to the sport originally (reduced cost and ability to play virtually anywhere) has vanished. Without fixing that, I don't think we'll ever see significant growth.
For the most part, there are already good people working on the tournament circuit and in the other areas of our sport like NCRHA, State Wars, etc. Those areas will continue to advance as long as they have a way to bring in new players - and that won't happen without the house and recreational leagues.
As stated in the article, hockey is forcing parents to spend thousands of dollars to get a child involved in a sport that the child may not like. When there are alternatives like soccer available for an investment less than 10% of what hockey costs ... hockey will always be more expensive, but the gap in cost has become so wide that only current hockey players seem to be interested in getting their children involved in the sport. Follow that down a generation or two and you can see where we're going.
Mike Burke<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by MikeBurke on 07/26/06 08:22 AM.</EM></FONT></P>
07-26-2006, 09:54 AM
at the open house at neumann last year we played the dvds from nationals at our table. we had a hand full of people ask if it was ice we were playing on because they didnt know it was sport court. i think the dvds really helped the faculty see that it was a serious sport and not just a group of guys getting together in the parking lot.
07-26-2006, 10:05 AM
I believe it has more to do with kids having so many different sports to play or activities to do now. Sports do not get really big until they are sanctioned by high schools not just a "inhouse high school league" featuring high school aged players. Look at Lacrosse as an example it was a fad sport for along time now it is huge and growing bigger every season. High Schools have bowling and golf teams that may carry 10 total "players", how many do you think actually went out for the team? I am sure there are more inline players in each school than golf or bowlers. Its a really unique situation and I think if the sanctioned tournaments (Narch or Torhs together) who have a track record for being successful put together some plan of attack to get into the schools then something could happen. This is a huge project and I am sure I am making it seem alot simpler than it actually is. Sorry for ranting just my thoughts rip me apart if you please.
07-26-2006, 11:23 AM
quoted from Johnny2suede:
"Danny G said: "NARCh, TORHS, et al...all quality organizations, with a quality product. But by the very pyramidal approach to their service, they tend to drive kids away from the sport without meaning to."
Can you back that with some facts Danny? I firmly disagree with that statement and I think it's foolish."
Please allow me to clarify. There is nothing wrong with the operation of these two (and other) fine organizations. They provide a valuable service to the inline hockey community. They would not continue to develop if they were not quality organizations.
NARCh, especially, in its willingness to take over USAHIL's "house league tourney team" program for next year, in its newly formed "club division," is to be commended.
I merely point out that the whole travel team syndrome, and the tournament structures it fuels, is pyramidal in nature, which tends to limit opportunities for the sport's development, not create more of them. It is the methods of travel team formation, not the tournaments, that is the problem. That is why the tournament organizations "hurt without meaning to."
quoted from Johnny2suede:
"Furthermore Danny G, I believe Torhs and NARCh's numbers are up over prior years, but at the same time, your house leage is sufffering. In fact, your numbers are abysmal. To fault an organization like NARCh, which has had extended success far longer than your house league, and somehow blame them for your failure, without solid evidence, is pretty miserable."
The roller hockey program I have been associated with in El Paso, Texas dates from October 1987. This is a local Parks & Recreation Department program. My association with the program was severed in December, 2005.
This is not about blame. I am interested in solutions only.
<font color=purple>DannyG</font color=purple>
07-26-2006, 11:29 AM
Now this is right on the mark...
In fact, USA Hockey InLine's contribution at the October '05 Summit, and it was well thought out, prepared, and presented, was how to market the sport to little kids, moms, and dads. Well over a hundred ideas, concepts, and methods of actual marketing.
Everything that Johnny2 points out above would work. I commend him on his outward thinking.
I will be doing what I can locally to re-juvenate our local program. Perhaps we can form an association of "inline program marketing agents" and get some things going...
<font color=purple>DannyG</font color=purple>
07-26-2006, 11:37 AM
I agree with you on the too many sports thing. Parents are so afraid to let their kids have any "down" time that they have them in every sport to take up that "extra" time. Kids have no idea what to do if they have an afternoon off. Anybody read or have the imagination to play with legos or anything that DOES NOT involve a screen or ear phones anymore? Sorry, a bit off track...now if the kids could get floor time every afternoon would the interest be there?
07-26-2006, 01:07 PM
I am a true believer that tournaments hurt this sport greatly. And this is why, Kids do not want to stay in a house league and as richard said house league can not stay afloat. You have facilities that have, lets say just 2 travel teams, you are looking at 24 kids that are the best if not good players. This rolls down hill, now you have kids that only want to travel and play in tournaments because there is no competition in there house league.
I know it happened too my league. Lets face the facts, all these tournaments are getting theres and thats all they care about. The average NHL player is on his skates when he is 3 and skating everyday and then is competing at a very high level by the time they are 13 when they start hitting. the average inline hockey player starts when they are 10 to 12 and then they want to compete at tournaments. our hockey facilities can not keep house leagues when there are going to be tournaments,
I mean look at all of the hockey directors that try to run there own tournaments, they can't even if you give your in house team half price. I think Narch, tohrs, usa, Should kick back to the teams that are making them 100 of thousands of dollars. When I ran sportplex in frederick Md, the most teams I ever had was 26 youth teams, and I had to beg 1/2 of them. once tournaments started, it went down to 6 teams. Tournament are ruining this sport. Look at ice you don't see no ice tournaments like you do inline, the only tournaments that are good in ice are 30 and over and they are sponsored by a beer company, just think about who is winning in the direction our sport is going. YOu get a pro league with a solid foundation on tv, It does not matter as long as it is good hockey. Kids that will be new to the sport could not name one player that has ever played pro in any league. and that is sad.
07-26-2006, 02:42 PM
Too many sports...or too many video games. When I was a kid we played video games too...but it was in the evening AFTER we had played pond hockey until the sun went down.
I have lived through the cycle as well..watching my son go from rec skating at the local roller rink....to Narch Platinum Men's team, Piha, MLRH, USAHIL Junior development etc. etc.
I ran clinics for the beginners..kids from about 5 years old and up..more likely 7 but there were a few of the younger ones...In the mid nineties it was still cheap...hell I remember the first group of kids that were friends of my son's going to "nationals" with a USARS team...playing "round stick"..plastic Mylec sticks, a ball and rental skates or K-Mart specials...all the parents were of course leaping in ..but it was not expensive to play....equipment was maybe $40.00 for the first "kit" from K-Mart..for gloves, shins, skates...and the rink had a supply of Mylec rental helmets that somehow had HCCA approval..lol
It was ball hockey, just like in the streets..and parents didn't mind if the kids wore their skates on the streets to play..we knew it was throwaway stuff.
Then after a year of roundstick under their belts..it was time "to get serious"..play with real hockey sticks....pretty soon the little plastic stick house leauge was no more.... a few years later..ball hockey was pretty much scrapped in favor of puck....RHI still playing...and then lo and behold...some tournaments were played on floors where the puck actually slid like a puck...and Sport Court became the rage....Pretty soon about 2 - 3 years after round stick..kids now had slap shots..and a year later..slap shots with a puck...sending the disco lights, and the popcorn makers at the local roller rinks to oblivion on a regular basis....
Soon the local disco rinks wanted nothing more to do with the sweaty semi naked, cursing hockey players who enjoyed flashing the local patrons wearing only their jocks...and except for a few tittilated 13 year old girls...most of the disco rink patrons wanted hockey gone....To keep the hockey income..rink owners faced liability from injured spectators as well as players, and were forced to look at more than just nets... boards and glass..and soon after artificial surfaces..which were great for hockey..but turned the regular quad skaters off..plus the cost...
Disco roller hockey died....and so did the cheap entry into the sport....
The tournament series of course drove the changes to the sport and the keen parents to seek out rinks that played "real" roller hockey (me at the front of the pack...)..and the dicotomy continued..until a parent is looking at a comittment of maybe $4000/year per child and more for them to play a sport with no possibility of scholarship..or "pro payback" at the end..just pride as the reward...
A parent with 2 - 4 kids...cannot make an equal commitment to all his kids of that financial magnitude that in the majority of the cases...must come from average incomes...so the sport becomes even more elite....
Kids are comparing their $400.00 skates rolling on sets of $100.00 wheels and their $200.00 sticks handled by $160.00 gloves like parents discussing the relative merits of their newest BMW's or Benz's. Parent of kids that cannot afford the "latest" stuff...slink away to find where they can steer their kids into a sport they can afford...
Hockey whether ice or inline....was a sport of the people in it's hayday....it was played with cheap skates, or borrowed equipment...a full set of gear took years of Christmas' to accumulate... Communities flooded their outdoor rinks for their kids as part of their adult responsibility..and plowed these rinks together..kids and adults....or swept the tennis courts...or cleared the branches off the streets....and provided the garbage cans as goals..
Until the sport is once more played for the pure fun of it, and for some "attainable glory"..it will continue to head in the direction we can all see.... The sport will never have "the fun" without heroes to fuel the young imaginations...so someone will have to campaign some current NHL hockey greats to promote inline, because there are no media accessible inline hockey heroes to fuel a 6 year old's imagination. Even Gretzky and Lemieux would not cut it...it has to be some of the current heroes in the sport....remember..ice or inline..it's still hockey.
Powered by vBulletin® Version 4.2.0 Copyright © 2013 vBulletin Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.