DeKALB – Tony Frey wanted his daughters to get involved in a sport, but was surprised when they chose roller hockey.
“They tried T-ball and soccer, but this is what they’re interested in doing,” Frey, of DeKalb, said. “So long as they’re playing a sport, I’m happy.”
Danielle, 8, and Laynette, 7, were among a large group who attended a free youth hockey clinic at the Kishwaukee Family YMCA last Saturday. John Nunez, a volunteer coach whose own children play hockey, said the purpose of the clinic was to make the public aware of the sport.
“I saw it and wanted to try it and I liked it,” said Jacob Garlisch, 10, of Cortland. “I actually think it’s kind of fun to fall sometimes.”
The YMCA has a youth league for grades 1-9 and an adult league for 16 and older. Nunez said two 10-person teams usually play each other; they do not travel. According to sports director Dave Stouffer, the YMCA has hosted roller hockey for more than 20 years.
“We gained a few players since the Blackhawks got popular,” Stouffer said.
One hockey mom, Karen Maciejewski of DeKalb, said her son Tyler, 8, overheard her talking about a newspaper story about roller hockey and wanted to try it.
“He loves it,” she said. “It keeps him active and out of trouble.”
She said her husband is into football, but Tyler wanted to try something different.
“He didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps,” she said. “He wanted to go his own way.”
Unfortunately for players, roller hockey isn’t recognized by the Illinois High School Association, so teens are limited to where they can play. The closest team in this area is the Burlington Hockey Club, which plays ice hockey.
“That’s disappointing,” said C.J. Altman, 13, of Malta, who is enjoying his first season. “But I can always join the adult league.”
“We play for fun,” Nunez said. “Everyone has a chance to play.”