IHC Classic: Rob Laurie
Here's an article I wrote a few years back for a British inline hockey magazine about Rob Laurie, one of the greatest inline hockey players (and people) I've had the good fortune to have met in my career. I hope you like it.
(Don't worry, I sold only First North American Serial Rights to the story.)
Goaltender Rob Laurie has been a winner everywhere he?s played inline hockey.
by Richard Graham
In 1995, for the first issue of InLine Hockey News, I wrote a feature on Rob Laurie of Roller Hockey International?s Anaheim Bullfrogs, saying he was the ?nicest guy in RHI.?
At the time, he was 24 and preparing for his third year in RHI. Now, at 32, he?s still a nice guy, but what stands out to me is how incredibly successful he has been in every form of the inline game.
Laurie has been a winner everywhere he?s played inline hockey, from Roller Hockey International to FIRS and IIHF World Championships to NARCh to Pro Beach Hockey.
Born in East Lansing, Michigan, Laurie began playing hockey at age seven, and quickly moved into the net. ?I could play goalie better than I could play out,? Laurie remembers.
From that humble beginning, great things grew.
?I was a member of the FIRS In-line Hockey World Championship team in France in 2000, in Spain in 2001, and in the USA in 2002, when we won the silver medal,? Laurie said. Laurie was also a member of the International Ice Hockey Federation Inline Hockey World Championship silver medal team 2001, and played for Team USA Hockey InLine at the IIHF 1998 and ?99 events.
?I was on the IIHF team when we won in Finland in 1999, but it wasn?t called the world championships that year,? Laurie said.
Laurie says that there?s one thing that really separates the IIHF and FIRS events.
?The biggest difference between the two World Championships is that FIRS uses smaller nets. The competition on average is better at the IIHF, but the top teams in both are the same quality.?
Laurie?s first claim to inline hockey fame was as an Anaheim Bullfrog in Roller Hockey International. He played for seven seasons for the Bullfrogs (one with Major League Roller Hockey when RHI was on hiatus), won three championships, and was named to three All-Star Games (the only three that RHI produced).
?The first [RHI] game in the Anaheim Pond was unbelievable,? Laurie said. ?It was just a precursor to a great summer season. The fans loved it from that first game, and just kept coming back more and more enthused. Seeing the signs all over the place and watching people doing the wave around a $100-million-dollar stadium was amazing and had me thinking, ?This is roller hockey??"
The Bullfrogs went without a loss in 1993, and Laurie was a huge part of that team?s success.
?The undefeated season was great; everybody likes winning,? Laurie said. ?I think the best part of the season was winning the championship, however. We actually had another undefeated season the year of MLRH . With the right mix of guys, it can be done again.?
Laurie had several coaches during his seven-year pro career, including Chris McSorley, Grant Sonier and Brad McCaughey.
?I think all the coaches were similar in their style,? Laurie said. ?They let us play against each other a lot in practice instead of doing drills, knowing that was the way to get better. They all just let the goaltenders do their thing and tried to design some drills around what we felt we needed to work on.?
At least one of Laurie?s teammates from the Bullfrogs, Darren Langdon, made it to the NHL.
?It?s great to see some of the old Bullfrogs doing well in their hockey careers, some in the NHL, or doing great in Europe,? Laurie said. ?It?s tough to keep track of everyone, especially since e-mail wasn?t big back when all of that started. As for top opponents, I do remember guys like Mark Woolf, Hugo Belanger, Gerry St. Cyr, Doug Lawrence and others that were tough. They were the same guys racking up huge numbers every year.?
Laurie says that being a goaltender is a challenge, but he likes being the last line of defense.
?I like trying to make the tough saves that no one thinks you?re going to make,? he said. ?There are a lot of nights when the puck seems like it?s real small and coming real fast. That?s usually because you?re thinking too much. When you start worrying and thinking about how bad you?re feeling, you usually start playing badly.?
After Roller Hockey International bit the dust, Laurie played two years of Pro Beach Hockey in 1999 and 2000, winning titles with the Web Warriors each time.
Laurie was named USA Roller Skating?s Hockey Player of the Year in 2001, and for the past three summers, has been named Top Goalie in the NARCh Pro Division.
?I played for the Tour Mudcats in my first NARCh experience, but we lost in the finals. The past two years I played for Mission and we lost in the finals in 2001, then in the semifinals this year.?
Laurie says that playing in front of thousands of fans during his RHI days were very exciting, and NARCh is fun because he sees a lot of friends there, but if he had one moment in his inline hockey career to choose as his best, it would be a tight win two years ago.
?I think the excitement when we beat Swiss team 1-0 in France in 2000 for the FIRS World Championship was one of the best moments I had in international competition,? Laurie said.
He was less forthcoming when asked about inline hockey anecdotes from on the road.
?There are lots of good stories from my overseas travels, but most of them are unprintable, I?m afraid,? Laurie said with a grin.
Laurie has played minor league ice hockey each winter in addition to summer inline hockey, and says that rather than making fun of his summer pursuit, some of his teammates are actually envious of his inline hockey experiences.
?I think my ice hockey buddies who didn?t play roller are jealous of the opportunities the roller hockey has given me, and a lot of the younger players wish the pro league was still around for them to play in.?
What?s next? Another season of minor league ice hockey?
?I am pretty sure I am going to hang up the skates,? Laurie said. ?I am deciding about a job offer with Mission Hockey, where I?d be using my engineering degree.?
Laurie couldn?t have engineered a better inline hockey career. Whoever said nice guys finish last certainly didn?t know Rob Laurie.
Inline Hockey Central
Inline Hockey Central