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Interest in roller hockey growing at Tyrone rink

Anyone who knows former Tyrone mayor Pat Stoner knows that, when funding is needed, she’s been the “go-to” for digging up those sometimes elusive grant sources, whether it be on the state or federal level. One such project that was facilitated through her efforts and her knack for “shaking the money tree” is the borough’s in-line hockey rink, next to the pool at Reservoir Park.
This marks the third year that young and old alike have had the opportunity to enjoy the innovative recreational facility and it’s been a smashing success, attracting many, not only to play but also to spectate.
Stoner said she’s one of the rink’s most avid fans.
“The kids have really been active at the park and I just love to go up there and watch them play,” Stoner said in a recent interview with The Daily Herald. “It’s been very rewarding to see this grow into what’s now a community roller hockey league with a solid core of players of 13, 15 and sometimes as many as 22 players at a time.
“Where does it go from here? That remains to be seen, but they’re hoping this interest continues to expand, even to other communities.”
According to the former mayor, who’s reluctant to take much credit for the success of the rink, the kids have really dedicated themselves to becoming not only better skaters and hockey players, but also better sportsmen. She attributes that to the involvement of several fathers who have volunteered their time as coaches and mentors.
“We have four fathers right now who have stepped forward to take over the coaching,” she noted. “This is a critically important component and we’re very grateful to those who are giving of their time to help.”
Self confidence is being bolstered among the regular participants and real “skilled” hockey players are beginning to emerge. Clinics are being offered — the first one just took place in June — and it was “very successful” according to Stoner. Game skills and tricks were the emphasis of the inaugural clinic, and more are being planned, some specifically for the “little ones.”
“It’s great to watch the younger players — 5 and 6 year olds — learn the fundamentals of skating and playing roller hockey,” Stoner said.
Some of the advanced players are beginning to take their games to the next level, which is drawing the attention of area ice hockey instructors.
“They have scouted our players and have tried to entice them to ice hockey,” Stoner explained. “The best thing is, they can do both because ice hockey begins in November and outdoor roller hockey is a fair weather sport, so it wouldn’t interfere with what’s going on at the park.”
Stoner said the kids, ranging in age from five to high school age, have been making some noise about playing other teams from other towns; to form a Blair County roller hockey league of sorts.
“The kids really have a desire to take this to another level,” Stoner said. “They’ve been talking for some time about inviting teams from other communities to come together to form a league and I think that’s a marvelous idea.”
Now that school’s in session, some of the players are involved in school sports, so the roller hockey schedule is being adjusted to accommodate. But, as Stoner explained, fall is a great time for roller hockey, due to the cooler temps and the crisp autumn air.
Another facet of the roller hockey program is that kids don’t necessarily need to have their own equipment to take part. Many items such as helmets, about 75 pairs of skates, sticks and protective gear have been donated or purchased for the program to ensure everyone has the opportunity to take part.
There is no fee to use the park, which is open daily from 8 a.m. until dusk. Stoner said kids who want to get involved in this great program can contact her so she can get them in touch with the right people.
“I’m so thrilled with what’s going on down there,” she said. “Not only are kids from the community getting great exercise and the chance to play in a team sport, but there are even adults who are making use of the rink when games aren’t being played.
“I hope the interest continues to grow as it has and, wouldn’t it be great if we could interest other communities in the region in forming a league? It’s such a wonderful experience for everyone involved and I’d encourage more people to come see what it’s all about.”
The fall roller hockey schedule will be Saturdays at 9 a.m., and Tuesday evening scrimmages, which currently start at 6 p.m. may shift to Mondays. A Thursday night play time is also being considered.
For more information, Stoner may be reached at 684-5590.