Slaps shots rebound off side boards as pucks carefully aimed by youths go astray. Decked out in a multitude of pads, roller hockey skates and over-sized jerseys, players swarm across the rink like small bands of angry hornets honing in on their target — a small black puck. Parents stand along the fence, cheering, as their children weave in and out of other players, looking for the next pass or an open shot on the goal. This is the youth Asheville Inline Hockey League.
What started as a small group of youths back in the ’90s has evolved into a vibrant league, with around 100 players signing up each spring and fall. The arrival of the Asheville Smoke, an United Hockey League team, arguably had an influence on the creation of the youth league, which “officially” began in the parking lot of the Salvation Army on the west side of town almost 17 years ago.
While the Asheville Smoke has since dissipated, the Asheville Inline Hockey League has grown stronger. In 2001, the league moved to an outdoor hockey rink at Carrier Park on Amboy Road and has held weekly practices and games there ever since.
“My favorite thing about it [the league] is the community aspect,” says Marjorie Maginnis, whose son has been a part of the league for the past six seasons. “We all root for everybody; it is really inclusive and the kids have a really great time.”
The spring and fall months offer youth organized team play, with summer months dedicated to free clinics for those interested in learning more about hockey or honing their skills.
The summer clinics are open to kids aged 11 and younger. The session consists of a 7-10 week program, with clinics taking place Tuesdays from 6:30-8 p.m., starting on June 16 and ending on Aug. 11.
“The purpose for the clinics is to introduce new players to the sport — though, current players are welcome to come out too,” says Bob Clausen, youth commissioner for the Asheville Inline Hockey League.
Knowing how to skate or even how to play hockey are not prerequisites. The clinics teach participants the basics of hockey, how to skate and coordination and teamwork strategies, Clausen says.
Maginnis says when her son, Dylan, started with the league he had never been on inline skates and had never played hockey.
“The league meets kids where they are — everyone gets to play,” she says.
Interested participants are invited to come and check out the sport this summer with no commitment required.
“We have equipment that kids are going to be able to borrow for the summer clinics — skates included,” Clausen says.
While the clinics are free, participants are required to obtain Amateur Athletic Union insurance, which costs about $14.
The league is actively looking for youth equipment donations for these sessions.
The fall hockey season starts with evaluations on Aug. 29. Youths aged 5 and up are eligible to play, with teams separated by age group. Four-year-olds are welcome to join as well and go through a learn-to-skate program before they are integrated in with the rest of the league.
Cost to play in the fall league is about $100. This includes the league fee, the city park fee and the AAU insurance, Clausen notes.
The Asheville Hockey League offers a few scholarships to new players on a case-by-case basis. The scholarship covers league participation fees for the season or provides new players with the equipment they need to get started (excluding skates).
The Asheville Inline Hockey League, which is a nonprofit organization, also has multiple adult leagues.
For more information, visit www.ashevillehockey.org, or email Bob Clausen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: The author of this post has ties to the Asheville Inline Hockey League: Her son plays in the league.