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Roller Hockey International was a professional inline hockey league that operated in North America from 1993 to 1999. It was the first major professional league for inline hockey.


History

League president Dennis Murphy (sports entrepreneur), Dennis Murphy had been involved in the establishment of the American Basketball Association, World Hockey Association and World TeamTennis. RHI hoped to capitalize on the inline skating boom of the early 1990s. Key parts of its success were its stance on no guaranteed contracts, instead teams would all split prize money.Good, Philip
"Roller Hockey Team Finds a Home"
''The New York Times'', April 10, 1994. Accessed January 23, 2017. "Yet Dennis Murphy, the league's president, said the fastest-growing sports equipment sales were in Rollerblade skates. And he has no doubt about the direction of the sport. 'We believe we can be the No. 1 hockey sport,' he said. Mr. Murphy has a lot of experience in establishing new sports leagues. He is the founder of the roller hockey league with Larry King. Mr. Murphy, Mr. King and Billie Jean King founded World Team Tennis. Mr. Murphy also had a role in creating the old American Basketball Association and the World Hockey Association."
Teams were generally made up of minor league ice hockey players playing on inline skates during the summer months between ice seasons. Murphy saw big potential for the sport and believed that inline hockey could become the #1 hockey sport in the US. The league had plans to expand to up to 24 teams, including some from Europe, by 1997. However, RHI became known for its unstable franchises, instability in the league's front office itself, little media coverage and many teams struggling to attract crowds - while the Anaheim Bullfrogs led in attendance with an average of 9800, seven teams attracted less than 4000 on average, while the whole league's attendance averaged around 5000 by 1996. Ultimately, after five seasons of play and a fading in the inline skating boom, RHI folded in 1998 with two of its franchises joining Major League Roller Hockey: the Buffalo Wings (roller hockey), Buffalo Wings and its premier club, the Anaheim Bullfrogs. After folding there was a movement to revamp and come back the following year as Major League Hockey, but it never came to fruition. RHI was revived in 1999, with a 10-team roster that included five holdovers that had played in RHI in 1997: the Anaheim Bullfrogs, Buffalo Wings, Minnesota Blue Ox, San Jose Rhinos and St. Louis Vipers. The league cancelled the 2000 season and the league finally ceased operations in 2001 when their sites were limited to arenas in California. The St. Louis Vipers were resurrected in 2020 as an expansion team of the National Roller Hockey League.


Rules

The rules in the RHI were similar to but not identical to those of ice hockey. Besides the obvious difference of playing on a floor instead of ice, the RHI had four players and a goalie at a time on the playing surface opposed to ice hockey's five and a goalie. Minor penalties were only a minute and a half as opposed to two minutes and major penalties were four minutes instead of five. There were no blue lines therefore no offside (hockey), offside; however, there was still illegal clearing (icing (hockey), icing) and a different version of offside—a player could skate over the red line before the puck; however, the player couldn't receive a pass over the line. The Puck (sports), puck itself was lighter, at 3 oz. and made of red plastic as opposed to a 5 oz. black rubber ice hockey puck. There were four 12-minute quarters opposed to the NHL's three 20-minute periods. A tied score at the end of regulation time in the regular season would go straight to a shootout instead of overtime. The playoffs followed a best-of-three series format; however, the third game was not a full 48 minute game. Instead it was just a regular 12-minute quarter called "the mini game". If the teams were tied at the end of the quarter a sudden-death overtime period would follow.


Teams

Note: RHI 1993-97, revived RHI 1999 * Anaheim Bullfrogs (1993–1997; 1999) * Calgary Rad'z (1993–1994) * Connecticut Coasters (1993) / Sacramento River Rats (1994–1997) * Florida Hammerheads (1993–1994) * Los Angeles Blades (1993–1997; 1999) * Oakland Skates (1993–1996) * Portland Rage (1993–1994) * San Diego Barracudas (1993–1996) / Ontario Barracudas (1998–99) * St. Louis Vipers (1993–1997; 1999) * Toronto Planets (1993) * Utah Rollerbees (1993) / Las Vegas Flash (1994) * Vancouver Voodoo (1993–1996) * Atlanta Fire Ants (1994) / Oklahoma Coyotes (1995–1996) / Las Vegas Coyotes (1999) * Buffalo Stampede (RHI), Buffalo Stampede (1994–1995) * Chicago Cheetahs (1994–1995) * Edmonton Sled Dogs (1994) / Orlando Rollergators (1995, renamed Orlando Jackals 1996–1997) * Minnesota Arctic Blast (1994; 1996) * Montreal Roadrunners (1994–1997) * New England Stingers (1994) / Ottawa Loggers (1995–1996, renamed Ottawa Wheels in 1997) * New Jersey Rockin' Rollers (1994–1997) * Philadelphia Bulldogs (1994–1996) * Phoenix Cobras (1994–1995) / Empire State Cobras (1996) / Buffalo Wings (inline hockey), Buffalo Wings (1997; 1999) * Pittsburgh Phantoms (RHI), Pittsburgh Phantoms (1994) * San Jose Rhinos (1994–1997; 1999) * Tampa Bay Tritons (1994) * Minnesota Blue Ox (1995; 1999) * Detroit Motor City Mustangs (1995) * Denver Daredevils (1996–1997) * Long Island Jawz (1996–1997) * Chicago Bluesmen (1999) * Dallas Stallions (1999)


Expansion


Conferences

The Eastern Conference and Western Conference were created when RHI doubled in size to 24 teams in 1994 after its first series of 1994 RHI expansion, expansion and realigned its teams into two conferences and four divisions. Prior to the 1994 realignment, Roller Hockey International divided its teams into only three divisions and no conferences. From 1994 through 1996, the Eastern Conference was divided into the Atlantic Division and the Central Division, which were both successors to the Murphy Division. Starting in 1997, the conferences had no divisions. From 1994 through 1996, the Western Conference comprised teams divided into two divisions: Northwest Division and Pacific Division. Starting in 1997 the conferences had no divisions.


Eastern Conference champions

* 1994 - Buffalo Stampede (RHI), Buffalo Stampede (won Cup) * 1995 - Montreal Roadrunners * 1996 - Orlando Jackals (won Cup) * 1997 - New Jersey Rockin' Rollers * 1998 - ''No Season'' * 1999 - St. Louis Vipers (won Cup)


Western Conference champions

* 1994 - Portland Rage * 1995 - San Jose Rhinos (won Cup) * 1996 - Anaheim Bullfrogs * 1997 - Anaheim Bullfrogs (won Cup) * 1998 - ''No Season'' * 1999 - Anaheim Bullfrogs


Murphy Cup championship winners

*1993 - Anaheim Bullfrogs def. Oakland Skates *1994 - Buffalo Stampede (RHI), Buffalo Stampede def. Portland Rage *1995 - San Jose Rhinos def. Montreal Roadrunners *1996 - Orlando Jackals def. Anaheim Bullfrogs *1997 - Anaheim Bullfrogs def. New Jersey Rockin' Rollers *1998 - ''No season'' (MLRH Champion: Anaheim Bullfrogs) *1999 - St. Louis Vipers def. Anaheim Bullfrogs


Licensing

The league inspired at least one video game, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo's ''RHI Roller Hockey '95,'' although the game was never released. There was also a call-in style stats, scores and interview hotline where fans could call in following games. The phone number was 1-800-741-4RHI. This line was updated nightly following each game.


Media coverage

In the 1994 and '95 seasons, there was a regular schedule of games on ESPN2. In addition, several teams had their own radio or TV contracts. For example, a number of Blades home games were seen on Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket, Prime Sports and the Bullfrogs had radio broadcasts from 1994 to '96.


NHL alumni

*Ralph Barahona *Daniel Berthiaume *Francis Bouillon *Darren Banks *Frank Caprice *Jose Charbonneau *Ross Earl *Nick Fotiu *Victor Gerves *Stefan Grogg National League A, NLA and (Switzerland men's national ice hockey team, National Team, Switzerland) *Radek Hamr *Mike Kennedy (ice hockey, born 1972), Mike Kennedy *Sasha Lakovic *Darren Langdon *Manny Legace *Glen Metropolit *Tyler Moss *Steve Poapst *Walt Poddubny *Al Secord *Paul Skidmore *Pēteris Skudra, Peter Skudra *Bryan Trottier *Perry Turnbull *Dave "Tiger" Williams *Rik Wilson *Bob Woods (ice hockey), Bob Woods *Harry York


See also

*List of Roller Hockey International arenas


References

{{Reflist, 30em


External links


RHI statistics
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The Internet Hockey DatabaseRoller Hockey photo archive by Shelly Castellano
Roller Hockey International, Sports leagues established in 1993 Sports leagues disestablished in 1999 1993 establishments in North America Defunct sports leagues in the United States Inline hockey leagues in the United States 1999 disestablishments in North America