Backyard Olympics: Hold the ice: In-line hockey league a Carson City secret
This is the last of a three-part series – Backyard Olympics – to feature nearby locations to learn the basics of the Olympic sports.
This installment focuses on ice events, which include: bobsled, luge, skeleton, ice hockey, figure skating (including ice dancing), speed skating, short track speed skating and curling.
There are no fans in the stands. There’s no blood (usually). No toothless grins. There’s not even any ice.
This isn’t the Olympics. But that doesn’t matter to the players in Carson City’s in-line hockey league, who play on skates similar to roller blades on a smooth, plastic floor.
“It gives us a chance to drink beer with our buddies, talk about the game and pretend we’re stars,” said Russ Law.
Law coaches in the youth league, plays in the adult league and recruits friends to play in a pick-up game every day at the Pony Express Pavilion rink.
Elizabeth Dickey had never even skated before when Law, her Nevada Department of Transportation co-worker, convinced her to come out and try it three years ago.
“I was really stupid,” is the only reason she can think of why she accepted the invitation.
“It was pretty painful at first,” she said. “But after a while, I didn’t fall down so much, and it was really fun.”
Now she’s hooked.
“It’s a great energy release, and a great stress release,” she said. “It feels good going that fast and running into people.”
Growing up in Colorado with parents from Minnesota, ice skating was just a part of Law’s young life.
“Instead of skiing, we always went out and skated,” he said.
But he didn’t really start playing in-line hockey until after moving to Carson City and his son became interested in the sport. He started coaching in Carson City’s youth league 15 years ago and started playing two years after that.
With his background in skating, he thought he’d be a ringer in the league.
“I was, in my own head,” he said.
He soon realized he was outmatched.
“The adult league is a high level of play,” he said. “There’s a lot of people from the Midwest. We were playing some teams made up of people all from Minnesota.”
The Sierra In-Line Hockey League has 16 adult recreational teams and four that are competitive. Its games are played on Saturdays.
But the lunchtime games include anyone interested in playing.
“We have some great players and some beginners,” Law explained.
Troy Martin just started a couple of weeks ago.
“They’ve got a pretty good system worked out to try to equalize things,” Martin said. “They divide the teams so it’s easier for the less experienced people and more challenging for the ones who are better.”
First-timers can borrow some equipment to begin with. Used skates and padding are available from local stores like Play It Again Sports.
Law said that although the in-line rink in Carson City is top-notch and players travel from Reno to play, the sport is still relatively unknown here.
“People who’ve lived their entire lives here don’t even know there’s a hockey league,” he said. “They have no idea we have a fantastic rink with professional boards. It’s a great facility.”
And it’s a great way for Jason VanHavel to keep in shape without harming his knees after four surgeries. VanHavel said he remembers growing up that his friends’ fathers started developing health problems in their 40s.
“I’m 41 and I don’t want to be that guy,” he said. “This is a good, high-intensity sport that’s also low-impact.”
The intensity isn’t just physical either.
“I love the chaos of it all,” Law said. “Trying to control the chaos on defense and create it in offense. I just love being in the middle of all that.”