Scott and Brennan Olson, brothers from Minnesota, are usually credited with restarting roller hockey in the U.S. After finding an old pair of 60s vintage roller skates with wheels in a straight line instead of the 2×2 quad design, they saw the chance for off-season practice. Their efforts ultimately resulted in “rollerblade” inline skates in 1984.
The Olson brothers’ Rollerblade skates possess high-wear polyurethane skate wheels and excellent ball bearings which radically enhanced the skates’ performance over the slower and more hard -to-maneuver quad skate. Rollerblade skates were clean turning, fast, and smooth. By the late 80s, inline skating had blown up, although first as a form of exercise.
Lucky for brothers Olson, at that same time, ice hockey pro-Wayne Gretzky was at the top of his greatness, reigning the sport, accumulating legendary stats, and getting large television audiences. When the L.A. Kings got Gretzky from the Edmonton Oilers, southern Cali had a new hero who encouraged kids to take up street hockey. Soon enough, the streets of sunny Southern California were filled with rollerbladers right beside the ubiquitous skateboarders.
This phenomenon was not lost on the NHL. Soon other nice weather markets like Dallas, San Jose, Anaheim, and Tampa Bay were creating professional ice hockey teams. The league growth of pro-level franchises into warm-weather territories, linked with the increasing popularity of inline skating, turned out to be a chance mix for roller hockey. By the mid-90s, roller hockey had again taken off in the US with national competitions and numerous leagues.
Roller hockey, while popular worldwide, has had an up-and-down history in the USA, although its popularity is increasing. Given the substantial exposure the NHL has, and the general popularity of inline skating or Rollerblading, inline roller hockey will continue to rise like any exciting and quick-moving sport should.