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Adding Sports Not Easy

CIF: Bid to get roller hockey sanctioned was turned down by the Southern Section.

March 31, 1998|MICHAEL ITAGAKI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Just call it growing pains.

Three years ago, the roller-hockey craze created a feverish push to get the sport sanctioned by the Southern Section. But roller-hockey players and parents are still waiting.

Five years ago, the sport's most visible team in Orange County, the Bullfrogs, won a professional league championship and crowds averaging near 10,000 flocked to the Arrowhead Pond. But attendance fell off last season to about 8,500 per game.

So what has happened to roller hockey?

There are still plenty of people who want to make roller hockey a sanctioned high school sport. But a more patient approach has surfaced.

One reason for the patient attitude is the Southern Section's recent moratorium on adding sports. Southern Section Commissioner Dean Crowley said no new sports will be considered until 2002.

Instead of looking at the four-year wait as an obstacle, Orange County Interscholastic Hockey Federation president Lesli Lubinsky sees it as an audition opportunity.

About 30 county high schools--from Cypress to Dana Hills--participate in two Orange County IHF leagues based in Tustin and Huntington Beach.

"Getting CIF approval for roller hockey is way out there," Lubinsky said. "It cannot even be discussed right now."

The Orange County IHF has stringent rules for eligibility, structured similarly to most high school sports, Lubinsky said. Players can play only for their high school and the league also has game rules consistent with leagues in Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

"We've received a lot of phone calls from parents about roller hockey," Crowley said. "But there are a lot of questions not answered. The biggest concern is safety of the student-athlete.

"Where do you have the events? What type of universal equipment is required? What types of safety standards are to be observed for the equipment and the facilities? Who provides the officials and what are their standards? And of course, there's the funding issue.

"But the Southern Section is not going to look at a sport and ask if it's going to make money or not. If the schools can find coaches, facilities, and the kids want to have it, then we want to support it. But there are a lot of issues that need to be settled."

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