Friday, November 14, 2008

Roller hockey players can experience success transitioning to ice hockey

By CEAN BURGESON (For California Rubber magazine)

For those of us who grew up in the Midwest, Canada, or on the East Coast, playing ice hockey was as easy as shoveling off a lake or pond and lacing up the skates. In Northern California, transplants from these cold weather regions of the U.S. have a different option when introducing their own children to the sport of ice hockey – roller hockey.

“Roller hockey may be the best forum in starting to play the game of hockey,” says Jerry Orlando, who is the manager of Vacaville Ice Sports, home of the Vacaville Jets hockey program.

One of the barriers to starting ice hockey for younger players in California as opposed to playing out east is the premium price paid for ice time. “Ice hockey is very expensive in California because of the cost of making and keeping ice,” says Orlando. “Roller hockey obviously doesn’t have these costs. This makes it affordable to the average family.”

Making the move from roller to ice hockey is a relatively easy process for players, says Orlando. “The skill set developed in roller hockey transitions very easily to ice hockey. In fact roller hockey players usually are better stick handlers and shoot the puck better than ice hockey players because the puck does not move as well on a sport court as it does on ice. The only draw back is skating, but if taught properly the roller hockey stride can be the same as an ice hockey stride.”

For kids wanting to move up to ice hockey it’s better to do it sooner rather than later, though, as Vacaville Jets Squirt Travel Assistant Coach Matt Morton advises. Both of his sons, 9-year-old Sam and 11-year-old Timmy played roller before ice hockey. “It’s best to get them moved over by around 8 or 9-years-old,” he says. “After that age there are some ingrained habits that players have from roller hockey that are harder to break for ice hockey, such as using a foot-drag stopping method rather than a proper hockey stop.”

Mark Longshore, whose 8-year-old son Gabe switched from roller to ice hockey as a Mite this year says that the transition has been pretty smooth. “The skating transfers over well, but for the stopping and tight corners there’s a bit of a learning curve. Passing and shooting is the same. There wasn’t off sides where he played roller hockey, either, so he’s still learning that.”

Parents should be encouraged to know that youth players who start out playing on dry land before making the move to the ice can still be as successful as those who have played ice hockey exclusively for their entire careers. “My kids both started in roller hockey,” says Orlando. “It taught them the basic fundamentals of the game and gave them skill sets that they took from the court to the ice. It certainly didn’t hurt my daughter Elena, who goes to the top hockey prep school in the U.S., Shattuck-St.Mary's, and is currently on their twice national championship prep team – so I’m a proponent of starting at roller and transitioning to ice.”

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