Competition: The History of Hockey on Wheels

Roller Polo

Roller hockey began as a game called roller polo. The game of polo was introduced to the United States in the 1870s, and it became so popular that people began to copy it on skates. The game is played with short, curved sticks known as canes, and a ball that is made of a cord center with a hard rubber cover.

In the 1880s, many roller polo leagues were formed throughout the country. In 1886, the National League of Roller Polo was established, and the official rules of the game were adopted. However, after this initial burst of popularity, interest in roller polo, or roller hockey, as it was now beginning to be called, declined in the U.S.

Roller Hockey in America

The Roller Skating Rink Operators Association (RSROA) published a draft of roller hockey rules in 1940. However, roller hockey competition did not really become serious in America until the late 1950s. In 1959, the RSROA authorized the formation of the American Roller Hockey Association, and in 1960, exhibition games of both puck and ball hockey were held at the national championships. Roller hockey officially became part of the national championships in 1961, with curved sticks and balls as the official equipment. The first national title was won by the Rolling Ghosts of Lubbock, Texas.

After the 1961 Nationals, the RSROA adopted ball hockey as the official form of the sport because it was played by the majority of clubs in America, and because it was played at the international level. However, in 1965, puck hockey was reinstated as a separate division. In 1971, the hockey national championships were separated from the artistic and speed championships. In 1977, the puck hockey championships were separated from the ball hockey championships. Also in 1977, women's roller hockey made its debut at the national championships.

The United States in International Competition

During the 1960s, the United States returned to international competition. In 1966, the United States was ready to field a competitive team for the World Hockey Tournament in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The team faced the challenge of adjusting to international rules, instead of American rules. Most of the rule differences involved the goalie, who could not wear a chest protector, had to serve his own penalty time, and could face a penalty shot. The American team finished the tournament with a record of two wins and six losses.


In the United States today, three types of roller hockey are played: puck, North American Ball, and hardball. Although there are differences between these varieties, they also have some similarities. They all involve five-player teams, consisting of two forwards, two defensemen, and one goalie. In addition, they are all non-contact sports that require teamwork and strategy.

Puck Roller Hockey

Puck roller hockey is very similar to ice hockey. Players use regulation ice hockey equipment, such as goals, sticks, padding, and helmets. The game is played with iceless pucks, which are similar to ice pucks except that they have raised bumps on the surfaces. These bumps reduce the friction between the puck and the playing surface and allow the puck to slide more easily.

North American Ball Roller Hockey

North American ball roller hockey uses the same protective gear as puck hockey. In this form of roller hockey, instead of a puck, players use a plastic ball. This ball is filled with liquid which prevents the ball from bouncing. This allows the players to have greater control of the ball.

Hardball Roller Hockey

Of the three types of roller hockey, hardball is the most similar to roller polo. It is played with a hard cork and rubber ball. Players use short, curved canes instead of the ice hockey sticks. Since the ball can travel faster than 80 miles per hour, players wear padding, helmets, and reinforced skates.

Hardball roller hockey was an exhibition sport at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. However, it has not been made an official Olympic sport, yet.

Women in Roller Hockey

Women have been playing amateur roller hockey officially since 1977, when women's hockey was added to the national championships. At the time, women also began to compete in both puck and ball hockey.

In 1994, USA Hockey Inline was formed, a subsection of USA Hockey, the governing body for ice hockey in America. Women’s teams were involved in USA Hockey Inline from the beginning, with 1,603 women registered for the first season.

A few women had also played for men's professional roller hockey teams. Roller Hockey International (RHI) was a professional roller hockey league that existed from 1993 to 1999. Three women, all goalies, played for the league: Manon Rheaume for the New Jersey Rockin' Rollers, Erin Witten for the Oakland Skates, and Kelly Dyer for the Orland Roller Gators.

In 2002, the first women’s world inline hockey championships were held in Rochester, New York. The Canadian team won the title and the United States finished in second place.

National Museum of Roller Skating Audio Tour - Museum Proper
  1. The First Roller Skates
  2. Patented Roller Skates
  3. The Father of the Modern Roller Skating
  4. Rinking
  5. The "Newest" Craze
  6. The Disco Era
  7. Pop Culture! Skating in Lines: Roller Skating and Comics
  8. Pop Culture! Orchestras, Organs, & Disco: Music in the Rink
  9. Pop Culture! Movies: Roller Skating Across the Silver Screen
  10. Competition: The History of Hockey on Wheels
  11. Competition - Speed Skating
  12. Competition - Dance Skating
  13. Competition - Figure Skating
  14. Competition - Derby
  15. C. W. Lowe's Tent Rink
  16. When Skating Goes to War
  17. Skating for Others
  18. Roller Skating Car Hops
  19. Jam Skating
  20. Extravaganza on Wheels: The Skating Vanities
  21. Vaudeville