Summer hockey, minus the skates offered in Farmington
A new hockey league is coming to Farmington this summer and no skates are required.
Called simply ball hockey, the league is offered through Lakeville-based Dryland Hockey, Inc. It looks like a regular hockey game, but players are in tennis shoes and there is no ice. The game is played with a ball instead of a puck.
"It's competitive street hockey," said Randy Otten, Dryland Hockey Inc. founder and president. Only, in Farmington's case, games will be played on the outdoor hockey rink at North Creek Park.
Dryland Hockey, Inc. started in 2008, Otten said, as a program to give athletes of all ages the chance to play hockey, even if they didn't know how to skate. The sport itself has been around since the 1970s, he said, but it has really started to catch on in this area within the past few years.
"It's not that big in the U.S., but I would like to make it big," Otten said. "You don't have to know how to skate, but if you're a good athlete and you could come out for a few practices, you could be just as good as a semi-pro."
Players come in all ages and skill levels, Otten said. The program offers three brackets of play, according to age. Minnows and Sharks are for children ages 4-6. That program focuses on skill development, and it also welcomes parents who want to come out with a stick and work with their kids. The Juniors program is for kids ages 7-17. Otten says the Juniors level is the most competitive, with practices one night a week and games another. The Junior A bracket is for kids age 15-17; Junior B bracket is for kids ages 12-14; and the Junior C bracket is for kids age 7-11.
Adults can play ball hockey, too. That program is the semi-pro division, and it currently involves players ranging from 18 to 60 years old.
Minnows and Sharks, and Juniors practices will be held on Tuesday nights at North Creek Park. Games for Juniors and the Semi-pro teams will be held on Thursday evenings. The zones are set up a little differently, but the game of hockey itself is essentially played the same, Otten said.
"We have full equipment, referees, everything but the skates. The kids wear the appropriate equipment. It's real hockey," Otten said. "This is a way for families to get involved in hockey with lower barriers to entry, like the cost, experience and the ability to skate. There's floor hockey at the YMCA. This is not the same thing. It's real hockey, and we've got it down pretty good."
Dryland Hockey Inc. has been playing in Lakeville for the past several years, but decided to try a year in Farmington because many players are from this area. The club is also renting time at Wakota Arena in South St. Paul.
Registration is being accepted for the upcoming ball hockey season until June 1, Otten said. All registration information is available on the Dryland Hockey Inc. webpage, www.drylandhockey.com.