Major League Roller Hockey

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Major League Roller Hockey
Most recent season or competition:
2011–12 MLRH season
MLRH.jpg
Sport Inline hockey
Founded 1998, Alexandria, Virginia, United States
Inaugural season 1998
CEO Doug Jones
President Bill Raue
Country United States
Headquarters Alexandria, Virginia, United States
Continent North America
TV partner(s) Roller Hockey TV
Related
competitions
MLRH Pro
MLRH Elite
MLRH AAA
MLRH Grassroots
MLRH Europe
MLRH Summer Cup
Slamm Hockey League
Official website MLRH.com

Major League Roller Hockey (MLRH) is a limited liability company which operates multiple inline hockey leagues and tournaments. Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, MLRH is one of the only full-contact inline hockey competitions in the world.

The league was organized in 1998 in Alexandria, Virginia, United States, after the suspension of operations of a predecessor organization, Roller Hockey International (RHI), which had been founded in 1993.

MLRH draws many players with former college and pro ice hockey experience, as well as "pure" inline hockey players. Although Americans have historically constituted the majority of the players in MLRH, the league also attracts Canadian and European trained players to the league.

MLRH expanded to Europe in 2012 with a pan-European series of competitions spanning from top level hockey to youth and amateur competitions.

History[edit]

Total MLRH world championships[1]
Defunct teams are italicized.
Team Titles Season
Mission Axiom 2 2011
2012
Marple Gladiators 2 2003
2004
D.C. Filibusters 1
Anaheim Bullfrogs 1 1999
Boston Storm 1 2006
Breakaway Bullies 1 2013
Buffalo Wings 1 2009
Colorado Crush 1 2001
Detroit Revolution 1 2010
Dynamo Pardubice 1 2008
IHC Tunechoddy 1 2007
New York/New Jersey Rockers 1 2005
Rocky Mountain Wolverines 1 2000
Vourlean Veikot 1 2014
Williamsburg Warriors 1 2002

After the suspension of Roller Hockey International (RHI) for the 1998 season, Major League Roller Hockey was founded in 1998 in Alexandria, Virginia by entrepreneur Bill Raue. The inaugural season featured two franchises from the suspended RHI (the Anaheim Bullfrogs and Buffalo Wings) and 18 new franchises, with 11 in the United States, one in Canada and six in the United Kingdom.[2] The first games were played during the summer of 1998. Hugo Bélanger of the Virginia Vultures, former Roller Hockey International leading scorer, finished the inaugural season leading the league in goals (79), assists (79) and points (158), including a single game with 11 goals and 15 assists.[3] The Anaheim Bullfrogs defeated the Orlando Surge to win the first Jason Cup title in front of 10,000 fans at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California.[4]

While MLRH operated successfully in its inaugural season, the league went on hiatus for the 1999 season, citing financial challenges.[5] Roller Hockey International returned in 1999 for one last season before folding for good.[6] MLRH however fell victim to the demise of RHI and was brought down as professional roller hockey flamed out in 1999. According to Bill Raue, "There were so many bad feelings when RHI folded with $40 million in losses that it was virtually impossible to play at the professional level."[attribution needed]

Returning in 2000, MLRH operated throughout the Midwest and Eastern seaboard, playing with primarily amateur players. Starting in 2005, MLRH expanded to a Super League format with the American champion facing the European champion in a world championship. In 2009, MLRH moved to a pro tour-style league before returning to a traditional home-and-home style league in 2010.

In 2008, Bill Raue brought aboard former professional ice and inline player Doug Jones, who had a reputation for being hard, but fair, when it came to league policies and enforcement.[citation needed] Jones, who had much success with the Wayne Gretzky Roller Hockey centers, which at one time had five locations in the western and eastern United States, had also been a pivotal behind-the-scenes organizer in the resurrection of professional inline hockey in Southern California, the Elite League, Inline Hockey Association (IHA), Jones as both a player and later as president of IHA, had moderate success with helping to promote and get the league recognition.[citation needed] The league played in the Anaheim Convention center during the 2006–2007, season. Jones's team the SC Bulls were in first place when the league ceased operations after six regular season games. Jones, known for his hard stance on rules and no-nonsense attitude,[citation needed] had MLRH owners frustrated with their inability to "complain" to turn things their way. This included failure to pay franchise fees and other league expenses. Jones began cleaning up MLRH and removing the teams and owners who had not met their financial requirements – a move that clearly brought him much criticism by the teams and owners who had been used to running things their way.[citation needed]

"MLRH had a great product, my goals were to recognize the leagues' assets, its players and put forth fair and reasonable rules and codes of conducts to ensure growth and an even playing field for all who participated."[attribution needed] – Doug Jones, MLRH Commissioner, 2009

In 2009–2010, Jones set structure with teams in place and a board of governors which included team owners to head MLRH back on track with their issues and problems. With the difficulty in managing self-serving personalities who tried to benefit themselves rather than the league, Jones and Raue made the decision to scrap the democratic process and eliminated the board. MLRH then proceeded to have two of its most popular seasons in 2010–2011, and 2011–2012, where the Mission Axiom won both championships and dominated the playing floor with a record of 30–0–0, in regular-season play. After the season ended, Jones worked and recruited to develop a Midwest division, which resulted in the addition of the Chicago Carnage, Motor City Assault, NY Rockers and Buffalo Excitement, in 2011–2012. This accompanied by the Mission Axiom, Hollywood Dream, Anaheim Bullfrogs and Arizona Arsenal, MLRH had a resurgence in 2011–2012 with a "West vs. East" final between the Mission Axiom and the Motor City Assault. The finals resulted in Mission winning the league championship, two games to one over the Assault.

In 2011, MLRH sued Michael Staple of MIHA for trying to take MLRH's intellectual property and teams. The lawsuit was settled out of court and terms were not to be disclosed.

MLRH brought forth "Rollerhockeytv", (rollerhockeytv.net) to viewers across the world. RHTV, a webcast of MLRH games, brought viewers "live" action of MLRH games from California and the Midwest. While a great idea and concept, RHTV would suffer from the same problems as everything MLRH. Raue's refusal to fund it properly and to provide quality service, while "over promising and under delivering". During the 2010–2011 season, MLRH featured division games from the Pacific division for viewers to partake and watch. This bolstered by the success of sponsors, MLRH had record numbers for revenue and a game on February 12, 2011, between the Pama Cyclones and Mission Axiom which garnered over 10,000 views. In this game, Juaquin Chavira and Chris Connole respectively of the Cyclones and Axiom, squared off to a fight that drew a crowd of over 500 in attendance. Rollerhockeytv.net also acquired sponsors including Mission Hockey, Labeda wheels, Tour hockey, Revision and Rinkrat wheels. At the beginning of the season MLRH had over 15 sponsors as a part of their webcasts.

In 2011–2012, MLRH and rollerhockeytv.net continued its presence, webcasting a record eight events from both California (The Rinks in Irvine) and Michigan (Total Roller Hockey) for games during the season. During the MLRH playoffs, games were not webcast due to Raue not paying its production company, Videotrails, who then refused to work the event at the last minute. MLRH temporarily secured new production and webcast the State Wars hockey event from St. Louis, Missouri, August 2012 and its regular season in October 2012 once again, from Irvine, California at the "Rinks" in Irvine.[needs update] The league brought back the Anaheim Bullfrogs of RHI and on opening in October 2011, retired Joe Cook's jersey. Jones, orchestrated the former Anaheim Bullfrog's owner, Stuart Silver, to attend Cook's retirement and Silver, spoke about Cook's career to all on the historic night. Jones, was also able to get Silver to relinquish all claims and rights to the Bullfrog logo and name. In December 2011, Jones repeated his quest to honor the Bullfrog name's which had been a mainstay in their history by retiring Rob Laurie's jersey; both are high up in the rafters at the "Rinks" in Irvine.

For the 2012–2013 season, MLRH had a Pacific Division and Midwest division and expanded into the Texas and Florida area with the "Lone Star and Sunshine Division". MLRH has awarded a semifinal seed to its brother league, MLRH Europe, (mlrheurope.com) for the 2013 playoffs in the Midwest. MLRH Europe's top team will come to the US to play in the playoffs and have an opportunity to compete for the $10,000 cash purse in the 2013 post-season. In the 2012–2013 Finals, MLRH had its first world championship as the Koovee Roller (Finland), the Marsblade Capitals, (Sweden), The Houston Venom (Houston, TX) and Breakaway Bullies (Santa Ana, CA) competed for the $10,000 purse. The Bullies would edge the Rollers three games to two to meet the Capitals in the finals. The Bullies would win both games 4 - 3 and win the MLRH World Championship.

The 2013 - 2014 MLRH World Championships would see former NHL player, Bob Sullivan and friend of Jones, become MLRH European president and the results were the first world championships played in Mannheim, Germany which saw Vuorlean Veikot as the new MLRH Champion as they defeated the Koovee Rollers (both teams from Finland). It should be noted that "7" players from both teams ended up playing in the IIHF World championships and won the World title. Lassee Lapoleinen was the MLRH 2014 MVP. "Bringing Bob Sullivan in with his contacts and respect in the European market was a breath of fresh air and a huge help to bringing us credibility", stated Jones.

Also during the season, Rollerhockeytv.net scored some big viewership and special guests as Future NHL HOF'er Charlie Simmer, former NHL player Chris Kotsopolous, Former Pittsburgh Penguin owner and 2 time Stanley Cup champion Howard Baldwin, plus NHL players Patrick Maroon and Anaheim Ducks 2nd round draft pick Nic Kerdiles all appeared on the show.

During the summer of 2014, the league recruited younger players with a super league which began play starting in June at Washington, DC and had 7 teams. The season would end with the Bullies, winning their third consecutive championship as they defeated the Philadelphia Demons in the best of three in Irvine, California. The Bullies dominated the Demons. As the season ended, tensions would surface between Jones and Raue and the league would sputter to start the 2014 - 2015 season.

The 2015 season would prove to be the ending of the partnership between Raue and Jones. There was no regular season as the former three-time champions refused to participate due to insurance issues. MLRH ran a "World Championship" in Pennsylvania and opened it to teams who wished to participate. The Pennsylvania Inferno would win the world championships defeating the Mannheim Stars in two games. The Super league fared worse than the World Championships as no one on the west coast wished to play check hockey anymore. Raue, with no other options, then had his "manufactured" team the Phoenix in the 2015 Super League final with the PA Inferno. The Inferno easily defeated the team to earn the title of the 2015 Super League champions and $2,500.

In addition to Jones departing MLRH, in August 2015, MLRH Europe's president Bob Sullivan also resigned his commission and broke his alliance with MLRH. MLRH Germany was dissolved. Raue, sent an email out on the MLRH email list September 29, 2015, attacking Jones and stating he had been fired, when in fact, Jones announced on August 13, 2015, he had resigned from MLRH with his Facebook account. Jones, attended the Mannheim event where he was presented with a Bob Sullivan, Hartford Whaler jersey by Bob Sullivan, for his service and dedication to the Oktoberfest event. Jones was to help Raue set up a computer for the new show, Roller Hockey Today" with interviews from the Mannheim event, but Raue, with his shortsightedness, alienated the former commissioner by throwing what can only be described as a tantrum in public in front of players, staff and fans at Sullivan's bar. This led Jones to walk away from further helping Raue with anything.

November 2015, would see Raue in an attempt to remove all remnants of the former commissioner, debut the new "Roller Hockey today" show with host Matt Popchok. The show webcast to less than 300 viewers and while the efforts of Popchok were to be applauded, it failed to gain the numbers of the previous 103 episodes of "This week in Roller Hockey" and over 930,000 views on Ustream and 103,000 on YouTube. Raue's new format, while a different concept met with little to no support or viewership. The second episode featuring "FIreman Mike" fared even worse than the first with less than 100 views. Raue's change in programming had turned the once promising weekly show into a parody.

In November, Raue promised a new non-check league which he will introduce to play for $10,000 beginning January 2016. He listed events in Southern California and Washington, DC with a new payment format. The event claims to pay $100 per game won and $500 for the event winner. The first MLRH event, scheduled for January 16, was postponed until January 23rd. In another move by Raue, Jeffrey Buma was coordinating the West coast event on January 30, in Irvine, Ca. The event, had a team called the "Lobsterz" who had only one original member and two recent members participate and they dominated the event. Viewership for the event was non-existent as games averaged 20 – 25 views per episode. The highest views was the blow out championship game between the Lobsters and the Hosers with the Lobsters winning 9 - 1. The game had 300 plus views. Even with the so-called former NHL announcer Chris Madsen hosting, MLRH's ratings were virtually embarrassing. Madsen, mispronounced player names and had no history or statistical information, which had been a steady diet for previous MLRH webcasts. His co - host, had little support to offer and was a subpar color man. The event lacked structure and organization running behind schedule, mismatched uniforms on referees, rule confusion, etc. Buma, has less than a stellar reputation for his league and organization skills. His resume includes, the failed IHA pro league, where players, officials and employees, were not compensated for their work. More seriously, three IHA players were injured during league play and not covered by the insurance, Buma claimed the league had. This leaving them to pay their claims out of pocket. With the decision to have the former IHA owner involved, this brought up the credibility of the event.

However, teams embraced the non-check format and organizations like the respected San Diego Hosers, participated. "Our team had been recruited for years to play MLRH, but we did not wish to play with the full check format. Removing the checking aspect, brought us the chance to play finally and our decision to play had nothing to do with who is or was running MLRH", Joe Noris of the San Diego Hosers stated. Noris, was a four-time guest on This week in Roller Hockey. By removing the checking aspect, MLRH had brought teams back into the fold who were not playing due to the full check part of the game. MLRH booked a second event, on April 9 in Irvine, and as of this posting, had announced the LA Pama Cyclones were returning to play in the non check format. The Cyclones had previously come close to the MLRH world championship but fell short in 2011 against the Mission Axiom, now reportedly the So Cal Lobsterz.

Problems on the east coast continued to plague Raue as the second event and string of bad luck followed MLRH to England where the event played there was labeled by a team manager and past supporter of MLRH, Michael Payne to be disorganized, chaotic and with the posting of this update, prize monies have yet to be paid. As Payne Stated, Raue simply blew him off. The Pittsburgh event, which has now been rescheduled for the fourth time, remains in the air.

Jared Noe of "Suited four productions" announced he was going to re-launch "Roller Hockey TV" with his own version. On April 20, 2016, it became obvious that all previous TWIRH shows had been removed from the Ustream account. Raue, had sent out the wrong information for the MLRH Finals which again are in California as he could not get any east coast or European teams to commit. The MLRH cash prize is half of what it normally was $5,000. As of this posting only four teams had committed to play the event. At the time of this posting, the winning team of the event has yet to receive their $5,000 cash prize for winning the event.

Update: The cash prize was paid at the end of July, almost 45 days after the event. The MLRH super league has begun play, with teams that are basically made up of players Raue scrounges at game times. West coast lists four teams, but at this posting, none of the teams have solidified rosters or schedule to show games and times.

Game[edit]

Each Major League Roller Hockey PRO regulation game is played between two teams and is 34 minutes long. The game is composed of two 17-minute halves with an intermission of either one minute between the halves. At the end of the 35-minute regulation time, the team with the most goals wins the game. If a game is tied after regulation time, a 5-minute overtime ensues with the floor strength 3 on 3. If no winner is declared, four shooters for each team, in turn, take a penalty shot. The team with the most goals during the four-round shootout wins the game. If the game is still tied after the four shootout rounds, the shootout becomes sudden death. Whichever team ultimately wins the shootout is awarded a goal in the game score and thus awarded two points in the standings. The losing team in overtime or shootout is awarded only one. Shootout goals and saves are not tracked in hockey statistics; shootout statistics are tracked separately.

Shootouts do not occur during the playoffs. In the playoffs, sudden-death 20-minute four-on-four periods are played until one team scores.

Inline hockey rink[edit]

Major League Roller Hockey games are played on a regulation hockey rink with rounded corners surrounded by walls and Plexiglas. MLRH standards call for a rink measuring 85 feet by 200 feet. The center line divides the floor in half, and is used to judge illegal clearing violations. Near the end of both ends of the rink, there is a thin red goal line spanning the width of the floor, which is used to judge goals and illegal clearing calls.

Rules[edit]

While Major League Roller Hockey follows the general rules of inline hockey, it differs slightly from those used in National Hockey League games. Infractions of the rules can lead to either the stoppage of play in the case of offside and illegal clearing calls, or a penalty call for more serious infractions.

The league has different rules regarding being offside. First, the league only has an "offside pass" rule, which requires a stoppage in play if a pass originating from inside a team's defending zone was completed on the offensive side of the center line, unless the puck crossed the line before the player. Furthermore, the league also does not have a standard "offside" rule resulting from skate position.

Another rule difference between MLRH and the NHL rules concerns how illegal clearings are called. In MLRH, a linesman stops play due to illegal clearing the moment the puck crosses the goal line, in contrast to the NHL rules where play is stopped if a defending play (other than the goaltender) touches the puck before an attacking player is able to. It is similar in that, when a team is guilty of illegally clearing the puck they are not allowed to make a line change before the following faceoff. No line change is allowed of the offending team.

MLRH also has an instigator rule for players who wear half shields and cages. Any player wearing such who receives a high sticking penalty is assessed a double minor automatically. Any player who instigates a fight wearing such, is assessed a minor automatically unless, at the discretion of the official, the player takes his helmet off to square off with his foe.

Season structure[edit]

Major League Roller Hockey season is divided into an exhibition season (October), a regular season (from the first week in November through early to mid March) and a postseason (the MLRH playoffs). During the regular season, clubs play each other in a predefined schedule. The MLRH playoffs, which goes from March to the end of May, is an elimination tournament where two teams play against each other to win a single elimination game in order to advance to the next round. The final remaining team is crowned the MLRH World Champion.

In the regular season, each team plays 15 games; in tournament fashion (three games per event). Points are awarded for each game, where two points are awarded for a win, one point for losing in overtime or a shootout, and zero points for a loss in regulation.

Points are awarded for each game, where two points are awarded for a win, one point for losing in overtime or a shootout, and zero points for a loss in regulation. Among major professional sports leagues, the NHL is the only one to award a team points for losing in overtime.

At the end of the regular season, the team that finishes with the most points in each division is crowned the division champion. The three division champions along with the five other teams in the league with the next highest number of points, for a total of 8 teams, qualify for the playoffs. The division winners are seeded one through three (even if a non-division winner has a higher point total), and the next five teams with the best records in the conference are seeded four through eight. The MLRH playoffs is an elimination tournament, where two teams battle to win a single elimination game in order to advance to the next round. The first round of the playoffs, or quarterfinals, consists of the first seed playing the eighth seed, the second playing the seventh, third playing the sixth, and the fourth playing the fifth. In the second round, or semifinals, MLRH re-seeds the teams, with the top remaining seed playing the lowest remaining seed, and the other two remaining teams pairing off. In the third round, MLRH Finals, the two remaining teams play each other for the world championship.

In each round the higher-ranked team is said to be the team with the home-floor advantage. The game is played at this team's home venue. In the MLRH Finals, the game is played at a neutral-site regardless of where each team ranks.

References[edit]

  1. ^ About, Major League Roller Hockey. Accessed January 29, 2017.
  2. ^ McLeod, Paul. "Revamped Bullfrogs to Give New League a SpinRoller hockey: Anaheim will be only franchise west of Michigan.", Los Angeles Times, June 11, 1998. Accessed January 29, 2017. "Earlier this spring, six months after Roller Hockey International folded, the Bullfrogs jumped to the MLRH, based in Alexandria, Va. The league is beginning its first full season after a two-month trial run with eight eastern teams in 1997.It's difficult to estimate the success of MLRH, which has 14 teams in North America and six in England."
  3. ^ The Royal Half. "The Royal Half Preview: Kings vs. Anaheim", National Hockey League, April 7, 2013. Accessed January 29, 2017. "Hugo Belanger was also a member of the 1997 RHI Champion Anaheim Bullfrogs team. But the next season, while playing for the Virginia Vultures of something called the MLRH, Belanger led the league in scoring with 79 goals and 79 assists in 20 games played. He also set a league record with 11 goals and 15 assists in one game."
  4. ^ Staff. "BULLFROGS BRAWL THEIR WAY TO TITLE", The Buffalo News, August 28, 1988. Accessed January 29, 2017. "The "Slap Shot" antics of the two teams almost overshadowed the play in the Anaheim Bullfrogs' 5-4 victory over the Orlando Surge in Wednesday night's championship game of Major League Roller Hockey in Anaheim, Calif. Anaheim built a 5-1 lead in the second quarter and held on despite eight Orlando power plays."
  5. ^ Boyce, Maureen. "Youth Roller Hockey TV Show Debuts", Sun-Sentinel, July 4, 1999. "Major League Roller Hockey, a professional in-line hockey league with close roots in Florida, has succumbed to financial problems and internal dissension. 'I think we are not going to play,' Bill Raue, MLRH president and founder, said on June 25 from his Alexandria, Va., office."
  6. ^ Staff. "ROLLER HOCKEY INTERNATIONAL TO RETURN", The Buffalo News, January 28, 1999. Accessed January 29, 2017. "After a one-year sabbatical to restructure the league and change half its teams, Roller Hockey International officials said Wednesday they will resume play this June with 10 franchises in the United States.... Only the San Jose Rhinos, Anaheim Bullfrogs, Buffalo Wings, Minnesota Blue Ox and Saint Louis Vipers remain from 1997."

External links[edit]