No matter which fitness activity you’re into, there’s a organization to scratch the itch. But what if you’re a hockey fan? Austin’s 100-degree summers are unkind to ice. And unless you grew up around the stuff, strapping on skates can be daunting. Enter Austin-based Texas Ball Hockey, an up-and-coming social street hockey group that gives local puck-heads the chance to get their Gretzky on.
Locally-grown Street Hockey
While most wouldn’t expect a winter sport to thrive in Austin, small pick-up games have been percolating for years. They just weren’t organized. When the now defunct South Austin Street Birds went under in October 2013, Texas Ball Hockey founder Dan Skemp decided to take matters into his own hands.
“In the back of my mind, I always knew we had another court available. So when the Street Birds disbanded, a few of us started playing here [in Cedar Park].”
By a few, he means four or five guys. The small rink tucked away in the back of Tumlinson Park, a stone’s throw from Cedar Park Center, was an ideal spot for three-on-three games and skills sharpening. But as that number grew, the organization needed a bigger home. Last year, the league started to play at Austin Sports Arena in Round Rock. A full-size roller hockey rink with locker rooms, seating for spectators and an upstairs bar, the facility allowed the group to expand into a proper league.
Skills and Scrimmages
Texas Ball Hockey not only caters to local hockey fans, but to players of all skill levels. While league games are played on Wednesday evenings at Austin Sports Arena, Mondays are reserved for scrimmages, skills and conditioning. Still played at the outside rink in Tumlinson Park, the Monday sessions are a great opportunity for newbies to learn the game and get a workout in. All sessions run from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m. (or whenever the lights go out) and require signing up ahead of time. Registration is easy via the league’s Facebook page.
Wednesdays are league nights at Austin Sports Arena. Games here are a traditional five-on-five format and are scheduled in advance, all in pursuit of the prestigious Danley Cup, named after league founder Dan Skemp. While teams are being formed as we speak, the league welcomes drop-in players. Season dues are $130 and get you 13 games and a t-shirt, while drop-in players are charged $12 per game. Goalies always play for free.
It’s easy to get started. All you need is a hockey stick (there are some loaners available, but they need to be reserved), a pair of sneakers and the willingness to play nice. Even if you’re a crazy person and want to play goalie, there’s loaner gear for you to use. Texas Ball Hockey is a no-contact organization and has little tolerance for aggressive play and general douchebaggery. That said, this isn’t badminton. Incidental contact, high sticks and slap shots are to be expected.
Taking Texas Ball Hockey Nationwide
This group isn’t content with staying within the Lone Star State. The league has already sent teams out to play in national tournaments. They took third place in the Shreveport, Louisiana, “Deep South Cup” Tournament, and are looking participate in a tournament in Las Vegas next year. Plans for a local tournament, where teams from around Texas and the country will be invited, are in the works.
Playing with these hockey lovers is like entering a scene straight out of Kevin Smith’s “Clerks.” Sticks clack and sneakers squeak as players run back and forth. Rock music blares from the arena speakers as goalies dive and shots fire.
Afterwards, the crew meets upstairs for a couple of brews and toasts nearly three hours of exhausting, exhilarating fun. It’s this “roll up the sleeves and get it done” attitude that has helped Texas Ball Hockey grow from a few friends running around a rink to a proper league ready to explode. Grab a stick and join the fun.
Texas Ball Hockey plays every Monday at Tumlinson Park and every Wednesday at Austin Sports Arena. Go to their Facebook page for specific locations. The league is also hosting their Summer Kickoff Party on July 7, 2016 at Austin Sports Arena. Free to attend, free to play, with free happy hour drinks and bites. Check out their Facebook event page for more info.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
What social sports are you playing in Austin?