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Michigan State Roller Hockey Club Continues Success, Despite Challenges

Demonstration Hall Renovations Changed Playing Surface, Helping Some Clubs But Impacting Roller Hockey

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Every Thursday night, junior Brandon Glasser and the other nine members of the Michigan State club roller hockey team play a game of soccer inside the Demonstration Hall rink.

But it isn’t by choice, as the team would rather prepare for games in the only roller hockey rink on campus. Their rink is no longer usable for competition, thanks to a recent renovation, so the club is doing the best they can.

“We do it for conditioning,” Glasser said. “We can’t hold actual practices there anymore.”

The Spartans (6-2) are in the midst of another strong season in the Midwest Collegiate Roller Hockey League. Despite two straight Final Four appearances, the team can’t practice and can’t host games on-campus.

Michigan State University renovated the on-campus building, in an effort to promote inclusivity, recreation sports, and fitness. According to Michigan State’s Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, the renovations brought for a new floor surface, so the arena could be used by Adaptive sports, ROTC, intramural sports, soccer and the marching band.

The new surface, however, isn’t accessible for roller hockey. It’s made of rubber, a significant change from the old tile surface which was conducive for roller hockey. Glasser compared the difference to skating with 50-pound weights. The puck doesn’t slide.

However, one group feels left out of the equation: club roller hockey.

“I think they (Michigan State) care about club sports but not enough about roller hockey to ask what we would need just to be able to use the rink that we have been using for years,” Glasser said.

MSU knows there is an issue with roller hockey on the new surface, but said the situation was not meant to hurt the club.

“It was not an intentional doing, it just worked out that way,” said Angela Michael, MSU’s Associate Director of Recreation Sports. “The rubber floor is better for a multi-use space. It was geared towards the bulk of the users. Tile was ideal to roller hockey, but nobody else. It was a constant struggle of keeping the floor safe and clean.

“I am just really impressed with how the roller hockey team has handled the situation with maturity. They took the bull by the horns and found a new space.”

The only solution was for the team to swiftly find a new practice rink off campus at the YMCA.

Michael was constantly in contact with the team, to make sure the move to the YMCA went smoothly.

“She’s been very helpful with ideas on how to communicate with the YMCA and has been checking up on us making sure the situation between the club and the YMCA is still in good shape,” said Rob Kowalczyk, the roller hockey club’s president.

The team makes the weekly 15-minute drive across town to play on a rink that isn’t regulation size, with the practice doing little to prepare them for games. They pay $50 per hour to reserve rink time.

“MSU doesn’t reimburse us for this expense,” said second-year player Andrew Deeter. “I feel they should because they took away our only way to play on campus. And now we have travel and rink expenses for practice on top of expenses for showcases and tournaments.”

Michael said many student organizations have to find facilities off campus due to the limited space and can apply for a season budget.

“Every student organization can apply up to $4,500 per year in ASMSU (Associated Students of Michigan State University) funds,” she said. “There are so many student organizations, there just isn't enough space on campus to accommodate them.”

Kowalczyk says the team is currently in the process of applying for the funds.

Deeter, along with many other players on the team, would rather go back to their practice situation before renovations - and that is saying a lot, considering the poor condition of the old rink.

It lacked a scoreboard, and players consistently got their skates stuck in the space between tiles.

“My first day of practice, my skate got stuck in-between the boards and the floor, and took me to minutes to get out,” he said. “The team told me that it was a regular occurrence and it happened multiple times throughout the year.”

The boards were made of wood and there were no locker rooms.  

“We were forced to change on benches and on the ground,” said Deeter.

He believes that being able to practice on campus again can consistently make the club a powerhouse program. That would provide more money for showcases and tournaments, instead of an hour of practice.

The rink change has been a big adjustment. However, Kowalczyk said the team will overcome this challenge.

“I think as we are now half-way through the season, everyone's adjusted to having to drive 30 minutes round trip for practice,” he said. “But, it was a challenge and somewhat frustrating to start the season. We are going to make everything work.” 

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