Inline hockey picks up following in city

By Contributing Writer

by: Lindsey Woods, Contributing Writer

A player in green weaves in and out of defensemen, drives toward the heavily padded goalie and tries to put the puck in the back of the net. There are no ice skates in this arena, but there are rollerblades. He is a player for the Chi-Town Shamrocks, an inline hockey team.

The Midwest Inline Hockey Association, the league the Shamrocks belong to, will hold a three-on-three tournament for 14 of its professional teams on May 21.

Other teams in Chicago include the Chicago Carnage, who play for Major League Roller Hockey, and the Chicago Sting, part of the Professional Inline Hockey Association. These leagues operate similarly to the NHL, with teams from different areas competing with one another in individual games and culminating with an end of the year tournament.

Doug Jones, MLRH commissioner, played ice and inline hockey with various leagues before taking an administrative position at the association. He said a big difference between the two sports is money.

“Ice hockey is always going to be the winner [between the two types of hockey] because of the salaries,” Jones said. “Unfortunately inline doesn’t have that ability to pay its players as much as the NHL.”

The MLRH offers a $10,000 cash prize to its league champions, and the other two leagues also have prizes for their champions.

Inline hockey is accessible to fans through several different mediums. Each league plays throughout the Chicago area. The PIHA and MIHA host games at Hat Trick Hockey, 647 Consumers Ave., in Palatine, Ill.  The MIHA also has games at Megaplex, 15301 S. Bell Road, in Homer Glen, Ill.

In an attempt to connect with more fans, the MLRH provides webcasts for viewers at

“In January, we had independent viewers from all over the world—New Zealand, Japan and Southeast Asia,” Jones said. “The viewership was incredible.”

The PIHA league championship games can be viewed online via, with the current videos racking up more than 57,000 views.

Some MLRH games draw from 100 to 500 fans present for a game, while the MIHA has comparable numbers. Now, with more ways than ever to get connected to the sport, the viewership is projected to increase, according to CJ Yoder, PIHA co-founder and president.

Most rules for inline hockey are similar to ice hockey. There are major and minor penalties for things ranging from fighting to high sticking. There is no icing, however, which stops play if the puck is shot past at least two red lines without being touched.

Rules about fighting depend on the league. The MLRH allows full checking and fighting, according to Jones, but Yoder said PIHA does not allow fighting.

“We are the only full-check inline hockey league,” Jones said. “We don’t condone fighting, but the rules stipulate that players are allowed to finish their checks, and players are allowed one fight per game.”

Inline hockey is also more fast-paced, said Sean Conlon, team owner and forward for the Chi-Town Shamrocks.

“Inline hockey is four on four, with no offsides, no icing and there’s usually more scoring,” Conlon said. “In ice hockey it’s common for a game to be 3-2, where as in inline it’s not uncommon for a team to score five or six goals.”

Professional ice hockey is played with five players on each side and has rules against being offsides. A player can cross into his or her team’s scoring zone indicated by the blue line before the puck does.

Yoder agreed inline hockey is accelerated because of the difference in rules, adding it can also showcase a different skill set.

“It’s basically a more wide-open game,” he said. “There could be a save at one end and a defenseman turns around and guns a pass all the way down the rink, and there’s a guy going on a breakaway because there is no icing or offsides.”

According to Conlon, the two things the leagues need are passion and players.

“I’m seeing more and more that the only way the sport is going to grow is with passionate people,” he said. “I would love nothing more than to see more kids out there playing inline [hockey].”