Elite Hockey League celebrates end of roller hockey season

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Elite Hockey League celebrates end of roller hockey season
Kerry Shea, the referee, league founder, and league commissioner, supports the younger players. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

WESTBOROUGH – Hockey can be just as nice without the ice.

On Aug. 4, dozens of athletes and passionate fans gathered at NorthStar in Westborough for the Elite Hockey League’s season finale.

Run by Kerry Shea, the league is one of the largest roller (inline) hockey leagues in the Northeast.

Roller hockey is played similar to ice hockey – there are two nets and hockey sticks, for instance – but there are also several key differences. Participants rollers skate around the tiled rink, there are no offsides or icing penalties, and the game is played 4-on-4.

The changes alter the pace of the game, turning the hustle-and-bustle of ice hockey into something much more deliberate and tactical. Shea noted that the game helps ice hockey players take breaks from the sport while still developing their skills.

“It’s a sport that a lot of NHL [National Hockey League] guys are attributing their success to,” Shea told the Community Advocate. “I’ve been doing it since I stopped playing high-level hockey. In my early twenties I picked up this sport, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’m almost 30 years into this business.”

A self-described “hockey guy,” Shea also has an extensive history with NorthStar, where his league has operated for the last four years. Shea said he has “lots of great memories on [the] rink.”

“I grew up on these rinks, he said. “I was four years old playing on this rink. My dad coached me on this rink. Matter of fact, the night my dad died I came here to sit on these stands.”

Shea’s son Trevor Shea scored the winning shootout goal at NorthStar that led Shrewsbury High School ice hockey past Algonquin Regional High School in the 2014 playoffs. Shea hadn’t entered in the game up until that point, and his goal propelled the team to the Division 3 State Championship.

After his ice hockey success, Trevor Shea played roller hockey at UMass, where Kerry Shea coached the team to the regional championship. Trevor Shea now helps his father run the roller hockey leagues.

Elite Hockey League celebrates end of roller hockey season
Scenes from the Elite Hockey League exhibition game. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

When Kerry Shea first began the roller hockey league, he started with eight teams. Now, he manages that many teams daily. Shea’s organization now includes 20 teams, not counting the four “dek hockey” teams he oversees. There’s a spot for everyone in the roller leagues; the leagues are split into three levels based on skills and previous experience. Some people travel for hours for their roller hockey fix.

“It’s just taken off. It’s been wonderful,” Shea said.

Shea has also started several youth roller hockey teams. He holds skills clinics for young athletes.

“The kids love it… they can’t get enough,” he said.

Shea strives to keep his league as “clean” as possible. You won’t see any badmouthing, fighting, or unnecessary roughness in his leagues.

“I don’t claim to be perfect – I can never be perfect – but I shoot to be the best I can. I’m fair to people, and I treat other people the way I’d want to be treated… If someone breaks a wheel, I go give them a wheel and fix their skates,” Shea said.

“When people come to watch my leagues, they’re like ‘There’s no fighting? There are no suspensions?’ ” he added.

The season finale games were, in fact, very respectful. All the athletes were supportive; Shea encourages everyone to help fellow athletes – even opponents – up after they fall.

Now retired from playing hockey, Shea dons the “zebra stripes” and referees the game.

“I think I’m more excited than the kids are,” he said.

On Aug. 4, the league celebrated the end to the season with an exhibition game that included the professionals and youth athletes. Each age group took the floor for three minutes before swapping out.

“The kids can learn alot by sitting on the bench and switching shifts with the pros,” Shea said.

After the game, the league championships were held.

“I don’t care who wins and loses, I’m huge on – and I almost go overboard with – sportsmanship, class, respect, and treating each other nicely,” Shea said.

For more information on the Elite Hockey League, go to https://tinyurl.com/eliterollerhockey.

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