By Jeremy Ellis
Back in 2009, I was headed back to the hotel from the rink in Mississauga. I was riding with three others, including one face that was new to the staff. He looked eerily familiar, like someone I had met before. It took a couple of minutes of discussion but we quickly figured it out. Twenty six years earlier we had played pee wee hockey together back in Michigan. That face was NARCh tournament director Pat Martinez. This weekend we stepped onto the rink together for the over 35 division, the first time we played together in over 25 years.
Its stories like these that keep hundreds of people and myself coming back to NARCh regionals and finals. In 10 years of involvement with roller hockey, I have had the opportunity to go to Hawaii, numerous other states, and most importantly made hundreds of new friends. We all watched in awe the skills on display in the Pro and D1 divisions. I can remember officiating some of those guys when they were knee high and crashing into each other.
NARCh is a family. The players, their families, and the staff come together this time every year and renew our relationships. Each year the number grows as we welcome new members to the group. We share stories, talk about kids and jobs, and reminisce. Some family members are no longer with us (RIP Todd Melton). The funny thing is that once we all come together we pick right up where we left off.
Last night was almost like a thanksgiving dinner. During the pro final, I took some time to walk around the rink and check out the crowd. Teams that hours earlier were in heated battle, were now sitting together and sharing a beverage. All ages, under one roof, with the main course being hockey in lieu of turkey. When the game ended there were emotions. People hugging, hi-fives given, and goodbyes said. Even though there were games today, the last Saturday night signals the beginning of the end of another Finals.
I have made friends through NARCh that I know will last a lifetime. From looking forward to seeing them to missing them when were gone, I cherish the moments every time. As for the hockey these past two weeks, all I can say is AMAZING! Playing this week reminds me of how skilled all of these players really are. In all divisions there are some great talents and good people involved. The coaches continue to improve the gameplans and work harder to develop relationships with the players and officials.
It is always sad to say goodbye, and now its that time again. I consider everyone here part of my extended family. I want to thank all of you for making this ‘work’ so fun. Terry and his staff here at the rink are always the best and I had a chance to do some extra curricular activities with them as well. Now I turn to looking ahead to Toronto. 2013 Finals are going to be a blast and will be here before we know it. I cannot wait to see all of my family again soon!