As classes ended Friday and students prepared for the weekend, the Oswego State club roller hockey team packed its gear and clothes into its cars and prepared for the six-hour drive to Lemoyne, Pa. This is the life of a club roller hockey player: long drives that average four hours to play three or four games each weekend against other collegiate club teams.
Roller hockey is played the same way as ice hockey except for a few key differences. The game is played on a solid surface comprised of tiles instead of ice. Teams play four-on-four instead of the traditional five-on-five seen in ice hockey. Offsides, icing and body checks are non-existent, creating a faster, more open game with the opportunity for more goals and finesse moves.
The team plays in the Eastern Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (ECRHA), a subdivision of the National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (NCRHA), the governing body of collegiate roller hockey across the country. The NCHRA oversees the actions of 175 teams and roughly 2,000 players from schools like Oswego State and SUNY Cortland as well as the University of Southern California, Michigan State and the University of Florida.
Most schools do not have roller hockey rinks, so games are played at neutral sites on the weekends in places like Feasterville, Pa. (here the ECRHA headquarters are located) and Bethpage. Although the Oswego State Student Association covers the league fee that the ECRHA charges, the club players and coaches pay for equipment, jerseys, hotel and travel expenses such as food and gas completely out of pocket.
“Its definitely tough,” said Joey De Santola, a player on the team. “The toughest part about being on this team is the money we shell out every week, every tournament.”
The team will often only use two hotel rooms to house 10-13 players on the weekend of a tournament, which along with the team’s long drives to Pennsylvania or Long Island, creates a lot of opportunity for team bonding and results in a closely-knit team.
Roller hockey is still in its infancy at Oswego State, the team has only been around for three years and was started by President Billy Farr.
“I wanted to start it, because I wanted to play as much hockey as I could,” Farr said. “It started off with me and a couple of the other kids who didn’t wind up playing on the club ice hockey team. My brother was involved in starting a team down in Cortland and gave me the suggestion to start a team up here,” Farr said.
The team recruited hockey players across campus, went through Student Affairs, established the club and was able to get Oswego State into the ECRHA. The team first began practicing outside on the tennis courts next to Seneca Hall once a week. For the first time, the team skated in Feasterville, Penn. in a preseason tournament, in plain green practice uniforms. They took on Scranton University in their first game ever, one that Farr remembers fondly.
“We didn’t really know how our team would play, it was our first time playing together from the most part,” Farr said. “We wound up pulling out a comeback and tying in our first game ever.”
The team would go on to surprise the league and finish second in Division III of the ECRHA; they would place the same in their sophomore season.
The team’s success at the DIII level has pushed the team up to the Division II level of the ECRHA, which means stiffer competition from schools like Northeastern University, a team that took second at the national tournament last year.
“Getting the recognition from the league, and starting to establish a pretty well run program was pretty significant in my eyes,” Farr said.
The team was accompanied by its bitter rival, SUNY Cortland, in the move up to DII. The rivalry is still fresh the minds of players from both teams, especially after the brawl in the league championship game that Cortland would go on to win. Oswego State is 0-2 against SUNY Cortland this season. The team currently sits in eighth place in the ECRHA with a record of 3-4. The team roster and stats can be found on ECRHA.net.
Roller hockey at Oswego State has definitely gone through some changes over the past three years. The team now has matching home and away jerseys, practices in Sweatman Gymnasium, and has raised its level of competition and intensity in the preceding years. Something’s have not changed: the team still packs into cars driven by players at tournaments, McDonalds and Taco Bell are still the pregame meal of choice and the Knights Inn remains the favorite hotel among players. Although it does not seem glamorous, the players do it for one reason: “For the love of the game,” De Santola said.