Think Rollerblades are passé?
On Saturday, collegiate roller hockey teams from around the West Coast descended upon Carson City for a regional battle and the first such tournament in Northern Nevada in five years.
Host University of Nevada, Reno was one of more than a dozen teams ready to do battle Saturday. While event organizer Brennan Edwards stood outside the Plexiglass at the Pony Express Pavilion, the action taking place had the real-time speed, high sticks, hat tricks and cross checks of the real deal.
"We looked at our schedule and saw that UNR has only hosted once in the last six or seven years," he said. "So it was definitely their turn."
Most of the teams at Saturday's meet were from Southern California colleges, including University of Southern California, UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, University of San Diego, UC San Diego, California Polytechnic State universities San Luis Obispo and Pomona, and Chapman University. Northern California was represented with UC Davis, UC Berkeley and Chico State University.
UNR's rival from the south, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was the other Nevada college represented in a sport that, unlike the powerhouse football programs associated with a handful of the schools, is commonly completely funded by the athletes themselves.
"I guess you could say they do it for the love of the sport," Edwards said.
He wears dual hats as executive director of the Western Collegiate Roller Hockey League and the National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association. The latter includes more than 200 teams and 2,500 players. Most of the teams are on the East Coast, Edwards said - noting the sport's popularity is constantly gaining on the West Coast.
"You've got dedicated athletes out here who've grown up playing," he said. "So the competition's pretty good."
Roller hockey is exactly as it sounds, a dry-land version of ice hockey, adhering to the same rule book
Referee Scott Silvas, of San Dimas, Calif., played roller hockey in college and semi-professionally (a professional league began in San Jose, Calif., two years ago, but did not last a half-season, Silvas said) - but reffing is "a favorite pastime."
"These guys out here, they make a huge effort to fit this sport into their busy schedules," he said. "They want to be here - so there's always a good camaraderie."
USC players Brian Winterton, 22, and Dan Ruffolo, 27, did not mention being in the shadow of other Trojan athletes that make it into the national limelight each fall - they didn't have to.
"We love to play and like to compete every chance we get," WInterton said. "There's a lot of good players on these other teams, a lot of good guys - so that's what keeps us traveling around."
As for Carson City's other offerings stacking up to L.A., well, that's "a different story," Ruffolo said.
"It's good weather, and it's good to play somewhere different," he said.
The Trojans, along with Cal Poly Pomona and UC San Diego, were some of the top teams in the field Saturday, Edwards said.
"Really though, every team has experienced guys and a shot to win," he said.
As for the fans, there were a few dozen in the pavilion's stands Saturday - people championing the collegiate roller hockey cause, or at least supportive to individual players themselves - enough to forego a day of college football.
"Yeah, I came to Carson City to watch a friend play," said Cal Poly student Owen Caprara. "It's a good sport to watch. And yeah, I guess you could say, I'm pretty loyal."
• Contact reporter Andrew Pridgen at email@example.com or 881-1219.