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Asheville's appetite for hockey is "the real McCoy," even though the city is operating without its professional ice hockey team right now. Drive by the French Broad River Park on any Saturday during the Spring or Fall and you are likely to find the parking lot full, kids and adults in the rink, and family and friends watching from the stands. Whether it's on ice or on concrete, it appears that hockey is here to stay.
In September 2001, City of Asheville Parks and Recreation Department completed construction on a new state-of-the-art inline hockey rink located at the French Broad River Park on Amboy Road. In partnership with a volunteer board, the Asheville InLine Hockey League was established to provide a recreational hockey program for both youth and adults. The league's intent and purpose is to provide a safe, fun environment allowing players to learn good sportsmanship, leadership, responsibility and fellowship through team play. The league is sanctioned by USA Hockey InLine, the governing body for the sport of inline hockey in the United States.
During Fall 2001, 130 youth and 40 adults registered to participate in the league's inaugural eight-week (10-game) season. In the Spring of 2002, those numbers grew to nearly 200 youth and 70 adults. Substantial growth is expected to follow for this season as well.
Both youth and adult leagues are coeducational. The league is open to players of all ages and skill levels. The youth league consists of teams in five age divisions, with players ranging in age from 4 to 17. The adult league has two divisions based on player skill level. Although full hockey gear is required (participants provide their own equipment), body-checking is not allowed and there is minimal contact during games. Clinics are held throughout the year to introduce new players to inline hockey and to help more experienced players enhance their skills. Coaches and referees receive training and are certified by USA Hockey InLine.
While the league gives the area's budding hockey stars opportunities to hone their skills, it is evident that the biggest star during the league's first year of operation has been the rink at the French Broad River Park. The rink provides a stage on which inline hockey can flourish in Asheville.
Coach and parent, Scott Spear, says, "The inline hockey rink is a wonderful addition to the fantastic recreational opportunities in the Asheville area. It provides individuals who live in the Asheville area the opportunity to enjoy a unique sporting experience in a family oriented environment."
Youth league commissioner Dave White commented, "The facility is awesome. It is even better than we expected it would be. Every time I come to the park, I hear positive comments about the rink. In addition to serving as the site for league games, we are now in a position to host tournaments with teams from other areas in the southeast. We are very proud of our rink."
Anyone interested in learning more about inline hockey in Asheville can call the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department at 259-9069 and Dave White at 687-9748, or write to:
Asheville Inline Hockey League