Sports

Skatin’ hard with the puckeroos

Roller hockey may be the most fun you can have on eight wheels.

Roller hockey on Bainbridge is more about the sun, friends and fun – the last thing on everyone’s mind seems to be the score.

“I think we ended up winning,” said Penguins coach Jay Bohonos, after a close game with the Blackhawks. “We really came together there at the end.”

Although the outcome may be elusive, the Bainbridge Roller Hockey League boasts no shortage of enthusiasm among young and old. The league has exploded since its beginning seven years ago, when 28 kids played on a blacktop rink enclosed by plywood boards.

For the third straight year, BRHL maxed out enrollment at 150, with 12 teams divided evenly among three divisions and players ranging in age from 9-17.

With a two-year-old professional rink at Battle Point Park and an abundance of volunteers, the league is stabilizing and gathering a diverse community of hockey fans.

Among this year’s participants are 16 girls and players from Poulsbo and Kingston, who all come to compete in Kitsap’s only inline hockey league. The emphasis on community and sportsmanship keeps players in the rink as much as the highspeed rush that comes from chasing down a street puck on eight wheels.

“My dad and my brother were like, ‘come out and play.’ So I tried it and I started to have fun and I kept going,” said Blackhawks player Sara Sheridan. “It was really different. It’s a lot of competition and good times. You don’t find that in a lot of sports.”

The league is also bridging the age gap. This year, adults can shred some pavement at a weekly pick-up game that starts around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday evenings.

“There were a bunch of adults who helped get the league together, then we started thinking ‘what if we want to play?’,” said Doug Greason, the organizer of the self-proclaimed “Geezer Ball” game. “We take a recreational approach, we match up according to ability and emphasize passing.

“We usually go until the sun goes down or until we burn out.”

BRHL has tentative plans to expand post-season play by sending some Division 3 players to USA Inline Hockey tournaments in Oregon. Last year, a Bainbridge team competed at the NARCH tournament in Redmond, where defeat hardened their dedication.

Players have been building their skills rapidly. In May, the BRHL hosted a hockey clinic presented by three-time roller hockey world champion and four-time national roller hockey champion Peter Dale.

Last Sunday, the league held a Skate-A-Thon fund-raiser to pay for the next clinic and new goalie gear. Friends and family sponsored the youngsters, who skated as many laps as they could to raise a total of $2,700.

“We were hoping to raise $1,000, but those kids skated their little brains out – in circles,” said Bernadette Stephen-McRae, BRHL president. She hopes the league will soon be able to afford an electronic scoreboard to complement the rink.

The season runs May through August, with this year’s championship games slated for 10 a.m. July 31. Following the games, the Mary Clare Award for Sportsmanship will be presented, a distinction players and coaches alike feel embodies the ethos of BHRL.

“This is a great recreational league,” said Jay Bohonos, the Division 3 Penguins coach. “The kids have a lot of good, clean fun. There is a lot of good sportsmanship and friendships and that’s what it’s all about.”

With an encouraging and inclusive program, the growing popularity of roller hockey will mean more fanatics within the family.

“When I’m not playing hockey, I think about hockey, and I would love it if we could play hockey at recess,” said Nate Greason, a 9-year-old, Division 1 player, whose sister Maureen also plays and was quite modest about scoring for the first time on Saturday.

“It’s hard having your sister in the league,” Nate said. “She always beats you.”

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