California State University East Bay

The Pioneer

East Bay hockey arena trades ice for air

Louis LaVenture,
Sports and Campus Editor

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When most people think about hockey in the Bay Area in all likelihood the San Jose Sharks are the first thing that comes to mind. However, an East Bay inline hockey facility is trying to change that perspective one person at a time.

At first glance, the Dry Ice Roller Hockey Arena in Oakland looks like any other facility, but when you take a closer look the differences are apparent. First, these players are on inline skates, notice skates and the surface is not ice, it’s called dry ice and looks very similar to the top of a classic air hockey table with holes and air shooting through.

The players are also very different and in the sum-mer leagues they range from 18-year-olds to 60-year-olds like Brian Young. He plays for the Tornadoes in the Bronze League, which has no checking and is for people with a lower skill level who want to enjoy the game and the physical benefits it provides. “I’m 60 and a half and I don’t think anybody else out here is over 50,” Young said. “As long as I can do it and not embarrass myself out here I’m going to continue to play.” Young, like many other people in the Bronze League, simply play because they love the game that his son also played as a youth. Female hockey player Lauren Graham is on the team that defeated the Tornadoes 6-4 on Sunday.

For Graham, it’s bigger than gender; it’s about family too. Not only does she play in the Bronze League, but she also plays in the co-ed league on a team with her husband. Graham’s son also plays in the youth league that is on hiatus for the summer because of low sign up numbers , which is common in the summer.

“Women are just as aggressive as men,” Graham said. “Females have just as many demons to get out too, and this is a great place to do that.” Graham nearly scored a goal after a scuffle in the crease with the Tornadoes “goalie-for-hire” Dave Sub-lett and the two jokingly screamed at each other before smiling at one another.

“It was nothing,” Graham said. “Goals are hard to come by so when you get that close it gets intense.” Sublett has a unique role at the arena where he is a referee on Wednesdays and lends out his goalie ser-vices to teams in need when they are short players. Sublett said he has been playing inline hockey for 15 years and the family atmosphere at the East Oakland arena is one of the major factors that keeps bringing him back to the arena.

“This rink is a community,” Sublett said. “It’s a second family here, so sometimes people miss and I fill in for teams. No matter how many goals I give up or how pissed they get they’re willing to buy me a beer after no matter what.”

The rink uses plastic pucks that slide and there are only four players and a goalie allowed on the ice at a time for teams and there are currently 74 teams in 10 different skill level leagues according to rink manager Jenna McLane.

During the other seasons, there are also adult leagues but during the summer season they offer free learn to play clinics for youths and adults. “Hockey in the Bay Area is a huge community,” Sublett said. “The San Jose Sharks have been getting a lot of fans interested which is great for the sport and places like this. This will help the sport grow and bring more kids in.”

A 2013 study by United States Hockey showed that youth involvement in organized leagues rose by 9,000 kids in 2013 and 7,000 the year before in 2012, which were both records. The study also showed that Califor-nia youth participation in hockey is at an all-time high and continues to rise. Much of the popularity increase has been attributed to the success of the three in-state teams and the golden state now boasts over 25,000 youth hockey players. “Despite what people may think this is a huge hockey area,” Sublett said. “I guess because it doesn’t snow here we get the wrap that we don’t play hockey. They’re wrong.”

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California State University East Bay
East Bay hockey arena trades ice for air