2016 Senior Men

History of Inline Hockey


(Taken from article in museum bulletin published in USA)

Glide Through the History of the Roller Hockey Championships
By Deborah L. Wallis, Director and Curator
National Museum of Roller Skating
Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

Shortly after the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association (RSROA) formed in 1937 in the United States of America and Canada, they began to organize roller sports including roller hockey.  In 1940 they drafted and published a set of roller hockey rules to grow interest in the game at the regional level.  However, the organized game did not receive full recognition as a National Championship until 1959.  An increase of national interest in the sport was noticed by the RSROA and they selected a committee of four to formulate a proposal and rules for the game.  In 1959 the American RSROA Roller Hockey Association (ARRHA) was formed with Joe Spillman as Commissioner.  The ARRHA drafted roller hockey rules that were adopted by the RSROA.  With Spillman’s direction, the sport grew rapidly.

During the 1960 National Championships held in Little Rock, Arkansas, exhibition games of ball and puck roller hockey were held.  Following the Nationals, the first competitive season in North America of roller hockey officially began in 1961.  This, of course was entirely performed on quad skates, for at that time there were no in-line skates available.  State and Regional competitions determined the teams that would move on to the North American Championships.

The final 1961 National Hockey Championship game was held on the opening night of the North American National Championships for Artistic and Speed.  Arlis Snyder remarked in the 1961 Championship issue of Skate Magazine, “Hockey for the first time as an event in the American Championship – a thrilling final game, which saw the winner come from behind to be victorious in sudden death overtime.  An excellent beginning for a new event.  We liked it, and we think the audience did, too.”

Following the 1961 Nationals, the RSROA board decided to adopt ball hockey as the official roller hockey sport of the organization.  Ball hockey was the choice as ball hockey was the format for hockey at the FIRS international level.

On September 1, 1965, puck hockey made a rebound back into the RSROA and into North American Championships.  During their semi-annual board meeting, the RSROA reinstated puck hockey as an equal and separate division of roller hockey.  It was decided that both ball and puck hockey would compete under the same rules and award separate gold medal winners.  Budd Van Roekel, RSROA president, was quoted in the January 1965 issue of Skate Magazine, “We believe this move will spark further growth of our roller hockey program.  While we recognize the popularity of the international ball-and-cane version of hockey, we also realize that thousands of potential United States and Canadian players are more familiar with the Canadian stick-and-puck type sport.  We see no reason why the two versions of the sport cannot grow side by side.”

The 1966 North American Championships marked the return of puck hockey after a four-year hiatus.  The final game was a nail biter and the crowd appreciated the fast pace and excitement of puck hockey.  The final game was between the Canadians of Windsor, Ontario and the Wildcats of Detroit, Michigan, the defending champions from 1962.  The score seesawed between the two teams and was finally decided in favor of the Canadians with a final score of 5 to 3.  The win gave the Canadian team their only gold medal for the whole North American Championships.  One Canadian team player was quoted in the 1966 Fall issue of Skate Magazine, “We simply had to win the (puck) hockey championships, otherwise our fathers wouldn’t allow us to return home.”

Five years later in 1971, the Hockey National Championships were separated from championships for Artistic and Speed.  The change was made for three reasons: extended time for the number of games because of the newly formed Junior division, the desire for improved facilities and the separation of hockey on an international level. The Gibson Arena in Muncie, Indiana was able to fit all of the needs required of the national competition.  The Championships went off with out a hitch proved that hockey could stand on its own.

After the return of puck hockey, it continued to grow in popularity.  Bob Hemphill of the Capitol Skateland rink in Olympia, Washington, cited three reasons for the increase in the Fall 1971 issue of Skate Magazine: TV was expanding its hockey programs; The game of Puck Roller Hockey is easier to understand in North America, in a similar way as American football appeals to North Americans better than soccer, so does puck hockey.   In 1972 a further change was made to the puck.  The RSROA adopted a uniformly produced puck, which until that time was non-standard.

1977 marked a milestone in puck hockey history.  The North American Puck Hockey Championships were held as separate Championship from ball hockey.  The Championships were held in Houston, Texas to large crowds and high amount of publicity as fourteen newspapers and television stations covered the event.  1977 was also a milestone for women as the Championship hosted the North American debut of women’s puck roller hockey.

Since 1977, many milestones and innovations have occurred in puck hockey.  In the early 1990’s the USARS North American Championships seamlessly shifted to in-line skates at the player’s own option because of the increased availability of in-line hockey skates and their rising popularity.  The in-line game which adopted all of the quad puck hockey playing rules has continued to rise in popularity and it has become an official division of the Federation Internationale de Roller Skating’s international hockey competitions.  Puck hockey on roller skates has come along way since earliest experimentation within the RSROA in the mid 1940’s.

2016 FIRS

USARS Inline Hockey in the FIRS World Championships

By George Pickard
President – FIRS Committee for In-line Hockey 

I speak of the events described below as a first-hand witness to their occurrence.  In 1961 I joined the staff of the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association of America (RSROA), a predecessor organization of USA Roller Sports, as its Director of Sports Administration, and my duties covered all disciplines of roller skating competitions and tests.  At the time the RSROA headquarters were located in Detroit, Michigan, USA.  In 1972, after the Association headquarters moved to Lincoln, Nebraska and merged with another USA amateur roller skating federation, I was named Executive Director of both the RSROA and the newly combined amateur roller skating group, USA Confederation of Amateur Roller Skating.  In 1988 I withdrew from my position with RSROA to give full time attention to USA Roller Sports, the newly minted title for USA competitive roller skating.

In the year 2000 I retired from my position with USA Roller Sports and was elected in France during the VI FIRS World In-Line Roller Hockey Championship as the volunteer President of the FIRS International Roller In-Line Hockey Committee, after serving as a member on this committee since 1994. I am in my 4th year as President of CIRILH.

There should really be no confusion over primacy in this sport among all the various organizations sponsoring or that have sponsored in-line hockey events, since documented history records that the first World In-Line Hockey Championship was organized under the aegis of the International Federation of Roller Sport (FIRS) in 1995 at Chicago, Illinois, USA, and was hosted by USA Roller Sports. I was the Chairman of this Organizing Committee.  And the historical record also provides that for nearly 50 years prior to this major event, USA Roller Sports had created and nurtured puck style hockey on quad roller skates in North American competitions, long before the time when in-line skates reemerged from the past as “Roller Blades” during the mid 1980’s.

The FIRS national federation in the United States, USA Roller Sports, was recognized in 1978 by the USA Olympic Committee as the National Governing Body “NGB” for all roller skating disciplines in the United States of America after the passage by the Federal Government of the Sports Act of 1978 (Public Law 95-606).  USA Roller Sports (under various predecessor names and acronyms, including RSROA, USA Confederation of Roller Skating and others) had been initially organized in 1937 for this purpose and has since then conducted annual National Championships in the United States in all FIRS recognized disciplines of the sport.  In October of 2001 the USA Olympic Committee reconfirmed this NGB Status for USA Roller Sports, after a challenge was initiated by USA Hockey (Ice), that clarified that such jurisdiction extends to USA Roller Sports for in-line roller hockey.  Previous to this reconfirmation of its status, the USA Olympic Committee had been providing financial support to USA Roller Sports for its in-line hockey participation in World Championships created by the International Federation of Roller Sports (FIRS), starting in 1995, as well as for the appearances of in-line hockey as a participant sport in the Olympic organized 1999 Pan American games of Canada and again in the Pan American Games of 2003 in the Dominican Republic.

While many independent and ice-hockey-oriented internet web pages are giving credit for the origination of our in-line hockey sport, as it is widely practiced today, to other organizations, including NARCH, no mention is ever made of the very early creation of this style of play by USARS and later adopted in totality by FIRS.  Paul Chapey of NARCH started his career in roller hockey as a USARS quad hockey player, becoming a member of the USARS Puck Hockey Committee and later its Chairman and first USA World Team Coach, until he bolted in 1996 to organize his own commercial roller hockey venture of NARCH.  Fifteen years or more before anyone had ever seen or heard of Paul Chapey, the current format of in-line hockey as played by NARCH, with no icing calls, no off side lines or penalties, no checking or boarding, was created in USARS by the then Chairman of the USARS Puck Hockey Committee, Dick Parker of Houston, Texas.  The games were then played on quad skates, since no one owned inline skates, even Scott Olson, creator of “Rollerblade” company.  When the in-line skate was reintroduced to the streets of America during the late 1980’s, in-line skates soon spilled over into USARS National puck hockey competitions and the 50 year old game of roller puck hockey transitioned from quads to in-line skates, carrying with it the very same playing rules developed for quads that Chapey uses for NARCH tournaments and are currently used in FIRS World Championships and by most countries around the world.

Many nameless and often faceless persons on their in-line hockey web sites often choose to ignore history and the 60 years of contributions made by USARS to the development of the game of inline roller hockey, however these same persons will acknowledge that the game of in-line hockey that has emerged is “a different sport from ice hockey”.  Well folks, it didn’t just happen, there is a long tradition created by USA Roller Sports behind this development that was totally embraced in 1995 by FIRS with the first ever World Championship for in-line (puck) hockey.  The recorded history of this game should therefore speak for itself.