EST. 2017

The National Roller Hockey League Is Back

Q & A with NRHL President Matt Wiedenhoeft & Commissioner Bob Clouston

By: Roller Hockey Hub Staff


The National Roller Hockey League did things during its two first seasons that roller hockey had not seen in a long time, if ever. Paid players, franchise owners, 3 stop-clock periods, and games with warm-ups & intermissions, just to name a few.


We looked for information on the National Roller Hockey League when we were setting up the Roller Hockey Hub. No website existed, social media outlets were not updated, and no one in the sport knew what was happening.


A photo was released nearly three weeks ago on the NRHL Facebook via Instagram. A video followed the next day. Suddenly, there was a steady flow of daily releases. A new website was released, along with a revised vision & purpose. A map of potential national cities was published, followed by an announcement of the league’s new direction via a letter from the President & Commissioner [Co-Founders] were issued.


The NRHL President and Commissioner’s letter addressed some of the plans for the league. The letter stated the NRHL is going to play during the summer. Included were franchise requirements, such as approved rink dimensions and playing surface, arenas with 4,000+ seating and a full team staff. Then came requirements a team must provide to its players. A list of requirements provided to players are:  a weekly salary, player equipment [sticks, skates, helmets, gloves, etc.], player housing, a designated team locker room and travel and per diem. It is indicated that the players will be cared for like professional ice hockey players are.


Our interests were piqued to know more about what the NRHL has in store.


Therefore, we requested an interview of the NRHL President and/or Commissioner. They were more than generous to answer some questions for our readers.


Roller Hockey Hub [RHH]: Where did the NRHL go?


NRHL Commissioner Bob Clouston [BC]: The NRHL did not go anywhere. When we finished season 2, we reflected on the positives and negatives of the first two seasons. The players loved it and the fans across the globe were excited.


NRHL President Matt Wiedenhoeft [MW]: Bob & I have had many conversations on the direction the NRHL should take. We developed a methodical and strategic plan on how to move forward.


RHH: What is the potential city map about?


BC: These cities were selected because of each cities’ hockey fan base. The cities indicated are currently hosting a professional or junior hockey franchise or former Roller Hockey International cities. Natural rivalries already exist with certain cities – like Muskegon and Fort Wayne from the old UHL/IHL days or OKC and Tulsa during the CHL. Even Erie vs London like the current OHL rivalry or two former pro cross-state rivals like Johnstown, PA and Elmira, NY. We want cities that hockey fans would be excited to see come to town.


We’ve had many existing hockey team owners contact us about their facility being empty in the summer, in which they’d be interested in the NRHL. We are speaking with current hockey franchise owners and potential owner groups who are not currently in the hockey business.


RHH: Why go national with the NRHL? Why now?


MW: We have been working for a while on how to grow the NRHL to the national level. It was always our intent to do so from the first conversation Bob & I had when starting the NRHL. However, we did not plan to do it this quickly in its history. We saw the incremental growth of the fan base throughout the United States and Canada, along with Europe and parts of Asia.


In economics, the Law of Demand dictates when and how to grow your business. The market is demanding the NRHL grow. Therefore, we listened and constructed our plan. The overwhelming inquiries from franchise owners, players, fans, and sponsors concurs with the demand we verified.


RHH: You released the league will play during the Summers, out of arenas with a minimum of 4,000+ seating. What are you stating really?


BC: We are looking at the league operating from early May through end of August. There is limited competition with major sports, with the NFL concluded and the NHL & NBA playoffs wrapping up. MLB is operating, MLS plays sporadically, and NASCAR is only on Sundays, with a rare Saturday night race, only in one city.


MW: The reality of the sport is that it is a summer sport. Ice hockey players end their seasons and will look for somewhere to play. The homes of ice hockey teams in leagues like the ECHL, USHL, NAHL, AHL, & others are sitting dormant during this period. It makes economical and logical for ownership and entertainment sense for fans.


RHH: Is growing the sport your main goal or is it only creating the NRHL?


BC: Yes! Yes, to both. We want to build the league and grow the sport.


The sport of roller hockey has no major league for young kids to aspire to play in. We want families to be able to discuss if roller hockey is the sport to commit to for their son or daughter when they are young, like parents do with football, ice hockey, soccer, and others.


Take MLS for example. Prior to a Major League Soccer, soccer in the US was not taken seriously nor chosen by the masses as a sport for parents to choose for their children to commit to. Yet, since the inception of MLS, youth soccer registration has exploded in the United States. The MLS gave kids a league to aim for.


RHH: Last question, what is something else you want the readers to know?


MW: The NRHL is going to be the best thing for the sport of roller hockey. We are going to grow the league the right way and at the pace necessary to maintain stability. We will only expand based on market demand, not aspirations. The economics of the NRHL must make sense for the owners, players, fans, and sponsors. It just will not operate efficiently and effectively with one of the four components missing.


Bob & I will continue to follow our plan. It is important to the sport for the NRHL to succeed. I grew up playing roller hockey, only to switch to ice hockey because there was no more RHI and no other league existed. The players and fans of the league must get ready to hang on to their seats. The news we’re going to be releasing over the next few months is going to blow them away.


BC: We want the youth to choose roller hockey as “his” or “her” sport when their young. With the NRHL as the league they are trying to aspire to. We want players to be able to make careers out of this amazing sport, roller hockey, in the NRHL.


Matt & I already know the max number of teams the league will allow for next season and the maximum ever. We identified more cities than the NRHL will have, but we will not dictate the cities. The fans will. Ownership groups will. The market will. We have a plan that is working. We will continue to use it. I just hope the roller hockey world is ready for the next step in the game. This is going to be great.



Posted 8/23/2017