Youth inline hockey recreational leagues are now under way for the first time in 15 years at the Terrace Sports skating rink at 5311 East Busch Boulevard in Temple Terrace. A total of 70 boys and girls are playing on 8 teams, or 4 each in the 10-and-under 14-and-under divisions.
“Our mission is to help create the next generation of hockey players from the Tampa Bay area,” said Joe Limone, Commissioner of the Tampa Inline Hockey League (TIHL). Terrace Sports once was home for a thriving youth recreational league in the 1990s and 2000s, but youth participation fell during the Great Recession and rink time shifted to older divisions such as adult leagues and USF and University of Tampa roller team practices.
“We know from the NHL success of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the popularity of our adult leagues that Tampa Bay is a Hockey Town. And a Hockey Town always includes the kids when it comes to creating opportunities to enjoy the game,” Limone said. As the TIHL Commissioner but also as a father of a young player, Limone is also seeking to attract boys and girls as young as age 4 for learn to play and development programs hosted by TIHL as well as Lightning Made Hockey.
At an Aug. 27, 2016, Lightning Made Hockey Clinic held at the TIHL’s Terrace Sports rink, more than 60 boys and girls from ages 4 through 14 got to meet Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman and 2004 Stanley Cup winner Jassen Cullimore, a member of the Lightning Made Hockey crew that puts on the DEK, or street hockey events. Lightning Made Hockey Clinic participants also learned about Tampa Inline Hockey League player development classes from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, designed to assist players from all levels in learning roller hockey.
“Providing a learn-to-play hockey program that is convenient and affordable is already helping introduce many kids to hockey for the first time, and they are loving it,” Limone said. They don’t have to be able to skate, which they can learn later as they pick up the stick-handling aspects of the game.
Additional announcements will be made soon by TIHL about the learn-to-play and player development classes, clinics and leagues at the TIHL rink in addition to its regular roller hockey creational league, Limone said.
“We want our rink to be a place where players of all skill levels can come to learn to be the best they can be in the sport,” he said.
The Lightning Made Hockey Clinics are a great model for any group looking to start an off-ice hockey introductory and player development program, Limone said. “We look forward to working with them to introduce more and more kids to the fun of hockey, as we make player recruitment and development a long-term mission in the Tampa Bay area.”