EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Demonstration Hall on Michigan State’s campus is used for a lot of activities. During the day, you may see indoor soccer classes playing on the plastic floor surrounded by hockey-style boards, or the color guard practicing their flag spinning.
If you stop by at 10 p.m. though, you’ll see 12 men on rollerblades, five without shirts on, two in goalie masks, with hockey sticks in-hand, passing a plastic puck.
This is one of MSU’s three club roller hockey teams.
The Michigan State roller hockey team has been around since the early 1990s. According to the team’s website, the team was founded in 1993, and in 1998, began their competitive history by playing other schools. The popular club team is a member of the Midwest Collegiate Roller Hockey League and the larger Collegiate Roller Hockey League.
Each year the club drafts three teams. One Division 1 team and two Division 3 teams are made up of from the tryout attendees.
“We’re one of three teams in the entire nation that fields three teams for our club; a lot only have one, some have two. Just because we have a lot of interest in our school and we have the ability to field three teams it’s good for the sport, more exposure type thing,” said sophomore Eric Purcell, MSU’s roller hockey team president.
Purcell said players come to tryouts, held the last week in September, in hopes of making the Division 1 team. After the D1 team is filled, the first Division 3 team is made up of the next best players. The rest make up the second D3 team.
“My good buddies who went here before me, who are older than me, played on the team and suggested the club,” said senior Dylan Kamen.
Purcell said the second D3 team is usually filled with guys new to roller hockey or “just trying to get into the sport.”
He said that while MSU teams don’t have any women on the rosters, they are not excluded. Some teams MSU play against have women on their rosters.
For the most part, the rules of the game are the same as traditional ice hockey. A few differences include: the plastic puck instead of a volcanized rubber, a plastic floor opposed to ice, there is no full-body checking, and there are only four skaters per side.
Purcell said the small changes from ice hockey make the game “a little more high-speed, more high scoring than ice hockey.”
The season for roller hockey is very similar to ice hockey ranging from October through the playoffs in April. They do however; take the month off in December and January for winter break. Each of the three MSU teams practice twice a week between Monday and Thursday in Demonstration Hall. On weekends they travel to tournaments in the region playing other teams in the MCRHL.
“We have showcase tournaments. They pick mutual sites between teams in the Midwest so we play teams like Eastern Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan, Miami of Ohio, and Grand Valley,” Purcell said. “We meet in local places like Grand Rapids, Detroit area, Ohio, Chicago, places like that and we go and play three or four games in a weekend and then that’s how we play our regular season.”
After the regular season, the playoffs take place and the winner of each division moves on to the national tournament.
The teams are completely self-funded aside from the $4,500 they receive from MSU’s student government, ASMSU. That amount is split between the three teams to supply new uniforms, pay league fees, and travel expenses. Purcell said after the support from ASMSU, each player pays about $1,000 to play.
Each team is competitive in their respective divisions and historically, MSU has done well in the post-season. The MSU D1 team has won the MCRHL six times since 2007. In D3, an MSU team has won the league four times since 2009.
“Three years ago we were runners-up and then two years ago we were elite eight, last year we were elite eight, this year we’re probably going to go all the way,” said Colin Cyr, the MSU roller hockey team vice-president .
“My favorite part about the team is the camaraderie. Like how it’s a brotherhood of my teammates, that’s what I love most,” said Kamen.