The Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) currently acknowledges 21 sports for boys and 19 for girls, giving students the opportunity to compete with schools across the city. Even though it does not have roller hockey as an option for either gender, this did not stop current alumni Zak Shtulberg, Chris Zhao and Daniel Goldstern (’09) from starting Stuyvesant’s Roller Hockey Club six years ago, when they were still students. However, due to the graduation of some of its more active leaders, the club has been inactive for the past two years. This year, senior and president Phillip Gornstein, who joined the club in his sophomore year, hopes to help it regain popularity and eventually be successful at the North American Roller Hockey Championships (NARCh) in June.
Some players on the team are already knowledgeable roller hockey players. Sophomore Ruslan Shchetinin, noted that the team provides students with a unique opportunity to play a sport without a large following. “If you already know how to play, it might be hard to find a game to play in. One of the things that makes this club fun and great is that it provides me with all that, all for free,” he said.
However, Gornstein welcomes inexperienced players as well. “Our club is open to anyone who wants to play roller hockey. No experience is required. We teach everything from skating to stick handling, passing to shooting,” said Gornstein, who had never played rolled hockey before joining the team. He credits former president Samuel Rabkin (‘11) with teaching him the basics of the sport and helping him develop as a player.
At present, the club consists of 12 members, just enough to hold six-on-six games with the traditional 3-2-1 line-up. However, Gornstein, who is always on the lookout for new members, encourages students outside of the club to learn more about the sport. “It has been my mission to make the sport more accessible and known, considering that the hockey-viewing circle at Stuyvesant is a select enclave,” said Gornstein, who noted that the club’s recreational vibe during the school year makes practice a leisurely for the members involved.
The current members see the support of more experienced athletes as a plus for students considering joining the team. “I’m glad to have the opportunity to teach others how to play the sport,” sophomore Steven Magidenko said.
At present, some students join having had some involvement with the sport after taking the roller skating class, which is offered to juniors and seniors. Assistant Principal Health and Physical Education Larry Barth, who teaches the class, is also the Roller Hockey Club’s faculty adviser.
One of the club’s larger problems right now, beyond the lack of members, is a lack of money. “I would love to somehow expand this club, because at this point it’s rather small, and we don’t get school funding,” Shchetinin said.
Fortunately, roller hockey does not have to be practiced on a standard sized field, given the nature of the sport. “We just need a smooth sidewalk and our equipment. Having our team be roller hockey allows us to more easily practice, and makes us more accessible to more people, as generally less people ice skate than roller skate,” senior and four-year member Brenden Collins said. However, the team practices two times a week at a skate rink on 68th St., free of charge.
However, competitions do cost money. In the first few years of its existence, the Roller Hockey Club hosted what was known as “Barthfest,” a fundraising event humorously advertised as a retirement party for Barth, to raise money to go to tournaments. However, Gornstein does not have plans for further fundraising this year.
Despite their fundraising difficulties, the small team is still preparing for the competition. “We have a fairly well-rounded team so far, and this upcoming year is looking very good. I feel that by June we will have a high-skilled competitive team. From there we look forward to competing in tournaments, but for now it’s all about development,” Magidenko said.
In the long term, Gornstein wants to participate in more competitions during the school year by setting up a roller hockey league for schools throughout Manhattan. “To play hockey against other schools would be great if we ever got the opportunity,” sophomore Ruslan Shchetinin said.
However, in the next few months, Gornstein will focus on getting the word out about his sport within Stuyvesant. “We hope to develop a school spirit base and benefit the school,” he said.