New roller hockey league launch

A new 12-team roller hockey league faces off for the first time July 1 with franchises in Canada and the u.s.David Barr, co-owner of the Toronto Planets franchise, says as well as his team there are Canadian teams in Vancouver ...

A new 12-team roller hockey league faces off for the first time July 1 with franchises in Canada and the u.s.

David Barr, co-owner of the Toronto Planets franchise, says as well as his team there are Canadian teams in Vancouver  the Voodoo  and Calgary.

High-profile owner

Calgary does not have a handle yet, but does have a high-profile owner in Larry Ryckman, who also owns the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League.

Mike King, president of Roller Hockey Vancouver, says former Toronto Maple Leaf tough guy Dave ‘Tiger’ Williams is director of hockey operations for the Voodoo franchise.

Barr says the other nine franchises of Roller Hockey International are in the u.s.

They are the Orlando Squeeze, Miami Soul, St. Louis Vipers, Salt Lake City Bees, Portland Storm, Oakland Skates, Anaheim Bullfrogs, the LA Bladers  owned by Jerry Buss, who also owns basketball’s LA Lakers  and the San Diego Thunder.

The Thunder are owned by Bill Hunter, a driving force behind the World Hockey Association and bids for nhl teams in Saskatoon and Hamilton.

Barr says this first season will last two months, with a further month for playoffs. Each team in the league plays seven home and seven away games with 13-man rosters.

Roller hockey is broadly similar to the game played on ice.

Among the major differences are the use of in-line skates instead of the bladed variety, a playing surface of plastic or concrete, fewer players per team, high scores because of the number of shots goaltenders face each game and less physical punishment.

Tryouts

Barr says Roller Hockey International began tryouts eight months ago, adding its first draft was held in Los Angeles on April 25.

Its commissioner is former Montreal Canadien Ralph Backstrom.

Jim Charboneau, director of hockey operations for the Toronto franchise, says the league, will play with a puck developed especially for Roller Hockey International.

Alex Bellehumeur, a co-founder of the new league came up with the puck.

Bellehumeur, a Long Beach, Calif. real estate developer and inventor who has never played hockey, says his new puck took about a year to design.

He says his pucks have the same dimensions and speed of pucks used on ice but are nowhere near as hard and weigh 3.5 ounces rather than the traditional puck’s 5 oz. to 6 oz.

New puck

He says the new puck  to be marketed in this country by Karhu Canada under its Jofa label  glides on six runners of very hard treated nylon.

Charboneau says he has been looking at players from Ontario universities, top junior teams and industrial leagues.

He says players will average US$350 to US$850 a week.

Barr, co-owner of Ready to Roll in-line skate stores, says his investment in the Toronto franchise is a marketing initiative to increase traffic at his stores.

Barr  not to be confused with Canadian pro golfer Dave Barr  co-owns three stores in southern Ontario and will soon open a fourth.

He declined to say how much his Toronto franchise cost.

Barr says he has found potential sponsors ‘responsive’ to his franchise, although there are no deals signed yet.

He says he has had talks with soft drink manufacturers, brewers, financial institutions and others.

Barr says he wants to sell roller hockey in Toronto as family entertainment, free of the swearing and gore common to its cousin played on ice.

Selling packages to league fans will be important, says Barr, who suggests a typical package of in-line skate rental, a lesson from one of his skating instructors and a Planets game might cost $25.