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Roller hockey league could be revived

(ran NTP edition)

Roller hockey players took their share of hits last year in a Carrollwood youth league, but nothing had the impact of the check delivered by the Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation Department.

County officials disbanded play at the Roy Haynes Recreation Center off S Village Drive after just two seasons. Last fall, four teams of about a dozen players each squared off on Wednesday nights. The league was popular enough to expand to six teams in the spring, and there was even talk of adding an all-girls division this fall.

Now, there is no roller hockey for any division.

Teen specialist Russell Elefterion, who ran the Carrollwood league and was instrumental in starting a roller hockey program in Town 'N Country two years ago, said the Roy Haynes league died because of concerns about mixing players between the ages of 11-18 and because the tennis courts where players skated were repainted over the summer.

"The older kids are faster and quicker, and they were falling inside the net," Elefterion said of players charging the goalkeepers.

Torn nets and head-on collisions were not the only concern. Cracks in the tennis courts at Roy Haynes could have led to serious ankle injuries if players' wheels got stuck.

Rough play along the fences also played a role in the county's decision, said Elefterion, who refereed all of the roller hockey games.

But there is hope for roller hockey players. A new league may soon be formed at nearby Orange Grove Park off Busch Boulevard, near the Forest Hills Little League fields. The park is about two miles from the Roy Haynes center, so many of the kids who played at Carrollwood could relocate to Orange Grove Park.

To make the game safer, Elefterion said the league would be divided into two age divisions: 15 and under and 16-19. Games would be played on the tennis courts, and the area of play would be outlined by an ankle-high street hockey border to prevent pucks from going astray.

"You can't tell them not to skate fast," he said. "If we promote leagues on the tennis courts, we have to make sure (players) are safe."

While Elefterion admits he is in the learning stages of roller hockey, he feels several issues have been addressed to make the league safer and more fun for skaters.

"The county is not very knowledgeable about roller hockey, and they rely on their employees," he said, adding that he hopes to revive the teen league by December, pending approval by parks and recreation officials.