Another season of the Tri-Valley Roller Hockey League will begin on Sept. 18 and give players of all ages a chance to face off in the rink.
The league, which plays its games at De Anza Park, developed gradually from a small family tradition.
The year was 1986—roller-skating was still going strong, people were walking like Egyptians, Ferris Bueller was taking the day off and three brothers took hockey from ice to asphalt in the San Fernando Valley.
"When Roller Blade put skates in the store [the Collins brothers] got the idea," said Ned Collins. "We could play roller hockey, same thing as ice, only on in-line skates."
At the time, his brothers Rick and Walt ran two used sporting goods stores, Encore Sports, and began holding weekend roller hockey events to increase skate sales. The popularity of the new phenomenon soon exploded.
"In 1987 the first organized league formed," he said. "It was at Agoura High School and it just grew from there."
The three brothers each took charge of their own leagues; Conejo Valley, West Valley, and Simi Valley, which was run by Ned Collins. They would play against each other in championships games. Regardless of the competition, it was always for the fun of game, Ned Collins said.
"When [Wayne] Gretzky came here it was huge," he said.
Everybody wanted to play. Kids would be rolling around their cul-de-sacs pretending to be Gretzky, roller hockey was as Californian as surfing or skateboarding, Ned Collins said.
"It hurt us when the NHL went on strike," he said. "When that happened, people just stopped playing hockey."
Different venues began closing down as interest in the sport diminished. Roller skating rinks converted to other businesses as real estate prices boomed.
But the demand to keep the sport alive remained.
Walt Collins no longer is involved in roller hockey. Rick Collins owns and operates Discount Hockey in Agoura Hills and Ned Collins runs the only remaining league, Tri-Valley.
In midst of the surrounding hills in Calabasas on a warm summer night, the sight of hockey sticks and the loud cracking sound of pucks being smacked may seem out of place to most, but not for Jeff Sigal and Corey Teblum who were watching a game that was refereed by Ned Collins.
"I have been playing here for six years," said Sigal. "It's great."
The championship finals were taking place that night. Teblum, who was waiting for his turn to play, looked at the standings that were written on the blackboard near the rink.
"A friend from work brought me here," Teblum. "I have been coming here for two years now."
Bev Scheu was standing near the fence watching her two children play, one of which was her daughter, unusual for a men's division game.
"She was too good for the coed division . . . a few of the guys don't like being scored on by a girl," she said, smiling with pride. "They have been playing since they were six-years-old."
Scheu plays the game too, in the coed division, and said Ned Collins is great with the players, ensuring the games are played in a sportsman-like manner and without any conflicts.
The league has a no cussing policy. Players are suspended for violations and troublemakers are banned for life, she said.
"What is cool about this sport is you can play it forever," said Ned Collins. "This game it gives people a home . . . they go away for college, they comeback. We have three seasons a year and they play three seasons . . . it is just a great game to play. Everybody plays and everybody has a good time."
Registration for the fall 2010 season is currently open and will continue through Sept. 15. For more information about the league, click here.