Ryan Sullivan and Marc Higaki grew up together playing roller hockey on the coast. Sullivan says he remembers playing at the airport when the North Coast Hockey League first started 25 years ago.
Both Coastsiders have stayed actively involved in the league as coaches. This year, they are stepping up to run the league as co-presidents, taking over from Jeff Hunter and Brian Ginna, who ran the league together for the last five years.
The NCHL will kick off the recreational season with its annual Give Hockey a Try Day. The free event for aspiring skaters ages 5 to 16 takes place from 12 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 5, at the Half Moon Bay High School rink.
Sullivan says the best way to learn roller hockey is to just do it.
“You’ve got to just get out there, get those skates on and chase the puck,” he said. “It is amazing to watch how fast kids pick things up if you put a puck in front of them and just let them go.”
Sullivan has two kids skating in the league, 5-year-old son Shane and 7-year-old daughter Kira. A lot of girls play in the coed league. Sometimes almost half of the players are girls in the younger division.
No gear is no problem in the NCHL. The league has a huge collection of loaner gear ready to hand out for free to new skaters, from helmets to hockey sticks. When players upgrade or outgrow their equipment, they donate it back to the league to keep the cycle going.
The summer rec program is a no-checking league and runs through June and July, with team practices once a week and games on Sundays. Game days are social events, with rock music playing, burgers grilling, parents cheering, and kids skating everywhere.
The league flourishes with a wide range of abilities among its skaters. Some play over the hill in competitive roller or ice hockey travel teams, some only play in the summer rec program, and some are putting on roller blades for the very first time. The league now plays at a bona fide hockey rink at the high school, complete 4321`5with full boards topped with glass, an outdoor skating surface and an electronic scoreboard.
Joel Farbstein stepped down from running the league in 2014, but he says it is too much fun and he can’t stay away. He’ll be actively supporting Sullivan and Higaki as they take the reins this summer.
“That is what summer means to me,” he said. “The NCHL and kids enjoying themselves.”
For more information and to register, visit coastsiderollerhockey.com.