On the Navy Base Monday night, laces are tied, pads are put on and sticks are primed. The roller rink is then filled with different people with the same passion: hockey.
“I’ve lived on all three coasts now and every time I’ve moved to a new city, I’ve tried to find a men’s league or a beer league and unfortunately down here there are no ice rinks so this is the next closest thing,” roller hockey player Zach Condon said.
The Panama City Beach Hockey League has been around since 1993 but started playing on the base’s rink around 10 years ago.
The league is made up of about 60 people, girls and guys, from as young as 18 to as old as 70.
“These guys, they welcomed me with open arms, never playing inline before, I had a very steep learning curve and you know it took some time. The guys were always rooting for me saying maybe you should try this giving me little tips of how to play inline,” hockey goalie Jonathan Martin said.
Even though they play on the base, the league is open to everyone. They have from cops to contractors who play each Monday.
“All you need is a pair of skates and as long as you can stay standing, I mean they welcome everyone here which is great all different levels,” roller hockey player Chloe Mallet said.
Each player does agree that roller hockey is different than ice hockey.
“No doubt, the stopping is different making turns is different so there’s an adaptation you have to make. If you’re coming from my state and you’ve never rollerbladed before, there’s gonna be a learning curve to it. But if you’ve been playing roller for a long time, you’ll figure it out quick,” league commissioner Jeff Abrams said.
However they don’t just do it for the hockey, but to have a little fun with each other as well.
“It’s pretty much the comradery. You have a good group of guys, you’ll have the same interests and it’s great exercise,” hockey player Brian Eckel said.