Always a great tourney at The Plex!
Words by Nick Boyarsky,
This weekend in San Jose has been a blast. With three rinks going full bore, and all of what goes into keeping the event humming, I wasn’t able to catch as many games as I’d have liked to, but that’s the difference between being there as a coach/participant versus an employee I suppose? Rather than give a non-firsthand recap of divisions I didn’t get to see, I thought I’d share some thoughts and observations I had throughout the weekend.
In general people in Roller Hockey are always friendly and welcoming when NARCh pops in for a weekend visit, and the folks in Northern California are no exception. Hugs from everywhere, cookies, muffins, and even a home brewed beer or 2 came my way, and I couldn’t be more appreciative! It’s amazing to me how so many programs can operate in this building, playing each other time after time all year round, sharing the same pool of players, and yet can still be so friendly and supportive of each other. There’s rivalries for sure, but they’re respectful of one and other and coexist in a way I don’t think I’ve seen happen elsewhere. It speaks to the character of all of the coaches, players, program heads, and even parents! Thanks for keeping it classy San Jose.
Although it might seem from blogs and discussions that NARCh events in San Jose are all made up of primarily teams and programs who play out of the Silver Creek Sportsplex, but that isn’t exactly accurate. Programs like the Delta River Rats, Chico Firebirds, and Verbero Voodoo trek multiple hours to attend these tournaments at SIlvercreek. It’s a “home” event but it’s definitely not at home for them. Another program who have a journey in front of them to play, and who have really started to not only grow in numbers, but in medal counts and championship game appearances, is the Bullets from Bend, Oregon. Two years ago at Winter Nationals here at the ‘Plex I saw the first reappearance of the old Bullets jerseys and names, (Bullets were around a generation ago playing NARCh events). That grew into a few more teams throughout the qualifier season and into West Finals ‘16 at Huntington Beach. This year at both Nor Cal Cup and Winter Nationals I started to see more and more Bend Bullets teams popping up. This weekend, there were I believe 7 Bend Bullets teams in attendance from Mite through Adults. It’s awesome to see Roller alive and kicking in the Pacific Northwest. The Bullets have some strong talent and excellent coaching so be on the lookout for these guys this summer at both West and East NARCh finals.
It would be great if every division had an exciting narrative to share, but in truth some are pretty cut and dry without drama filled playoff runs and OT championship games. One of the more exciting divisions of the weekend here in San Jose was our Pee Wee’s, and specifically the top 4 teams that would make up our Gold division semi final. The San Jose Inline Sharks had sailed through round robin with a perfect 8-0 win in all three of their round robin games, securing 1st seed, and appeared the favorite to walk away with the Gold. It looked like that streak would continue as the first period of their semi final game against 4th seeded Nika Properties had the sharks up 3-0 looking pretty. I’m not sure what the speech was on the Nika bench between periods was, but it seemed to light a fire as they would jump into the second and patiently bury 5 goals and take the lead. The Sharks would pop one in with :38 seconds left in the game, which was still one shy of what they needed to move on. After #2 seed the NCR Konixx Elite made easy work of Revo ‘03’s by a score of 6-1 they put themselves in place to face Nika Properties in the Championship. This would be a back and forth battle that wouldn’t see any clear winner until 1:40 left in the game when NCR’s #10 Jason Weitz buried an absolute snipe off a beautiful pass by #11 Jeremy Chimienti breaking a 4 to 4 tie, putting Elite up by one. They’d fight out the last minute and a half push from Nika Properties and go home winners. This NCR team has been together for the last few years and has truly bought into the system their coaches have been laying out. Keep an eye on them at both NARCh West and East this summer as they’ll be heading to both!
Each area has their pool of local talent at the “adult” level and San Jose, with its long history and support of the game is packed full of said talent. Our “Adult” division games were all pretty exciting and for the most part competitive. All the teams had their couple ringers, some with notable players from the ranks of NARCh Pro. Names like; Itan Chavira and Ryan Newens (Rink Rat), Michael Inouye (Tour Mudcats), Tommy Tuohy (Konixx Pure), Kyle Krunegel (Verbero Cypress), and others littered the Men’s rosters and provided Daryn with some highlight video fodder, so make sure to check those clips out over the next few days.
It was great to see two of the NARCh sponsors make the trip to the ‘Plex this weekend to help make a great event even better. I mentioned in the first blog we had new for ‘17 NARCh sponsor Clutch Hockey there to show off their new line of sticks, gloves, jerseys, and apparel. The hockey industry/market is turning a corner and becoming a lot more about smaller companies with passion and direct ties to the sport at the grassroots level, and a lot less about fancy marketing and gimmicks. Clutch is proof of that. Their booth was packed all weekend and the response from players I talked to who had a chance to demo their sticks was all on the plus side. A few lucky top scorer winners received a pair of Clutch gloves this weekend too which they couldn’t have been happier about. I spent some time this weekend getting to know Richard from Clutch and talking to him about his vision for the brand; I have a strong feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of Clutch in the coming days.
Verbero also had their full booth set up going on the other end of the lobby. Louis and CJ always put in their hours at every event. First to set up and last to leave, they do a great job educating everyone on the merits of their ever growing and impressive line up of products. One of the things they're most excited about is their new line of skates that you’ll all be seeing over the tournament season. I’ve gotten a sneak peak and can testify to you all right now, that they’ve got something really special about to drop. The other buzz I’ve heard a lot about is the Mercury stick from Verbero. Itan was giving me his two cents on it Friday night and I know he’s a believer. I spent some time in France earlier this month with Kyle Aldrich who’s another Verbero Mercury enthusiast; he told me he tried to go back to another brand of stick his team supplied for him at practices, and just couldn’t do it. Nothing shot like his Mercury! That’s two pretty talented players throwing their support behind it!
People are EXCITED about this summer’s NARCh East and West Finals. I talked to a number of coaches, program directors, and families about their summer plans and although they obviously are loving the home court advantage of NARCh West being in their building, they’re MORE excited about their trip to Toronto in July. For those of us that were around for other NARCh finals events in Toronto, its memories hold a special place for us. Reminiscing with different people over the weekend about their favorite stories from Toronto reinforces how impactful those trips and games were to them, and how much everyone LOVES playing in the Hershey Centre. From my own end, my youth program started budgeting out the trip last week and I was pleasantly surprised with how affordable a trip this was for everyone with the strength of the US Dollar particularly. If your team is on the fence about if the trip is doable, I advise to take a moment and look into it, you’ll be very happy with the results!
Later this month we'll be back at it again in Huntington Beach for the first or 3 So Cal regionals in just a few short weeks. If your team is planning on entering, NOW is the time to pull the trigger. This should be a fun one, hope to see you all there!