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September 21, 2023

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Street hockey played by volunteers

What started merely as an idea shared among two friends who loved street hockey has since grown into a league of its own.

About five years ago, Adam Kaczala and Billy Seiling, who were co-workers at the time, both had an avid passion for the sport of hockey. When they took this enthusiasm to the roller rink at Bowling Green City Park on Sunday nights, simple shoot arounds became pick-up games and were getting bigger by the week.

“It got to the point where you would spend more time waiting to play than you would actually spend on the rink,” Kaczala said. “This is when Bill and I decided we needed something bigger than weekly pick-up games.”

By early 2012, they had a vision for a recreational hockey league that could surpass all those that preceded it in the area. A league that was fun and built with volunteers, but still came as close to recreating realistic ice-like conditions and play style as was possible in a dry rink.

The Bowling Green Roller Hockey League is what emerged and it didn’t take long at all to know it could succeed.

“We realized the league was starting to take off after our very first session,” Kaczala said. “The first session included mostly guys that we had been playing those pick-up games with, but we had a good amount of new faces that heard about us through word of mouth.”

He put in a lot of extra work to increase the BG Roller Hockey’s online presence, which again helped the league grow. They have their own website, Facebook page and forum, where they share numerous pictures, in-depth statistics, discuss rules and the state of the game.

Over the past two years, those humble beginnings have since expanded into a league that just wrapped up its fifth season, where it saw a total of well over 50 players take to their skates and participate.

Corey Sabaitis travels from Findlay to play in the league every Sunday. He said he likes how close it is and the fact that they play with a puck even on the dry surface.

“It’s more realistic because we all play hockey,” Sabaitis said. “And it’s cheaper than anywhere else.”

While there is a small fee for playing, the league isn’t out to make a profit. All of that goes toward expenses. The league is run for the players and by the players, some of which offer their time even when they’re not playing, either as referees or scorekeepers. And goalies always play for free.

Those are the sort of people that fit right in with BG Roller Hockey, Kaczala said.

As a non-hitting league that values sportsmanship and takes player safety very seriously, there is strictly no fighting.

But that doesn’t mean there is any less competitiveness amid the broad range of skill levels within the league. From former Division 1 collegiate athletes, such as BGSU alumni, to complete newcomers, the talent is distributed fairly evenly among the teams, Kaczala said.

One player, Chris Aldrich, said that camaraderie with the teams is his favorite aspect to the league.

“I found out about it before it was an organized league,” Aldrich said. “At that point it was just a drop in. Everyone would come, throw in sticks and pick teams. A short while after that it was an organized league with four teams, then seven. I think there’s going to be eight next session.”

Aldrich’s team earned a shot at the Sanderson Memorial Cup, the league’s championship trophy. A new name will be notched in it soon with the Summer 2014 season concluded this past weekend.

Though, the wait isn’t long before they are right back in the rink.

Next Sunday the league opens their Fall 2014 season. Games are still played where they began five years ago, at the Bowling Green City Park during the same time every week, 3 to 10 p.m.

“We can’t emphasize enough how grateful we are to our past and current players, for without them the league wouldn’t be where it is today,” Kaczala said. “We have seen many great friendships form and existing friendships grow stronger through the league. For the most part, our players are a friendly group of guys who look forward to playing one another each and every week in a competitive environment.”

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