The History of Roller Hockey
1878 Roller Hockey Illustration (90.42.40)
This in-line was made specifically for roller hockey by the Roller Hockey Skate Company of New York City, circa 1910. The boot was made by the Brooks Athletic Shoe Company. Note that the rear wheel is raised to allow the skater to pivot on the center wheel. From The Evolution of the Roller Skate: 1820-Present, available in the museum store.
Combining fast action and team play, it is easy to see why roller hockey ranks among the fastest growing sports in the world. Roller hockey or roller polo started in 1878 at the Denmark Roller Rink in London, England.
In the 1880s various Midwestern cities in the United States formed several leagues and adopted rules of play. Participants played with curved sticks, sometimes called canes, while wearing quad skates. The game was played with two opposing teams trying to shoot either a ball or puck into their opponent's cage to score. The team with the most goals won the game. Each team consisted of five players: center, halfback, quarterback, and two rushers as the main offensive threat. The American game of roller hockey has three separate divisions: Hardball, North American, and Puck. Although unique in execution, each variation shares many similarities. In addition to being non-contact, each team is made up of two forwards, two defensemen, and one goalie. Puck is played with a regulation ice hockey stick and an arena puck. North American style is very similar to puck, but is played with a softer ball, which is safer for players. Hardball uses a hard black, cork/rubber composite ball and short, curved wood sticks (canes). Prior to the advent of inline hockey, hardball was the internationally accepted form of roller hockey.
Roller Hockey's professional popularity started in 1991 when a group of investors formed Roller Hockey International. The RHI formed teams in various cities across the U.S. and selected players from amateur organizations and former professional ice players. The league peaked in 1994 with 24 teams, but has dwindled since its founding. The RHI 1995 New Jersey Rockin' Rollers featured the only woman goalie in the league, Manon Rheaume.
The Pan American games introduced roller skating as a sport in 1979 and debuted roller hockey with the ball and cane the same year. Since the puck version of the sport has grown considerably alongside the popularity of inline skates, the Pan American games used the puck and the longer stick in 1999.