Rocklin’s roller hockey at Johnson Springview Park

By: Dana Lineback/Courtesy
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The Rocklin Roller Hockey Club meets every Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning at the outdoor rink in Johnson and Springview Park in Rocklin. The club’s membership has grown rapidly over the past decade, thanks in part to the efforts of Beale reservist Maj. Chris Cheshire.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Cheshire played a lot of hockey.

As a youngster, the 940th Wing reservist was a member of the 1996 Oregon State champion roller hockey team and played ice hockey and roller hockey with such future National Hockey League stars as Paul Gaustad, Brenden Marrow, Marian Houssa and Jason Labarbera.

“As I moved up in the sport, I knew my hockey abilities would never afford me the opportunity to play at higher levels of competition, but that didn’t dampen my love for the sport,” Cheshire said. “I continued to play recreationally.”

When an active duty assignment brought Cheshire to Beale Air Force Base in 2003, the hockey fanatic feared he might have to hang up his skates while in Northern California. But it wasn’t long before he stumbled across a roller hockey rink in Rocklin’s Johnson and Springview Park.

“A game was going on and I stopped to watch,” Cheshire said, “There were maybe a half dozen folks playing.”

Cheshire soon became a regular at the local rink.

And over the past decade, the handful of players has grown to over 100 members, forming the Rocklin Roller Hockey Club.

“We’re a motley crew that just loves to play hockey,” said Cheshire. “You can find us out on the rink almost every Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning. We split up into teams to play a full-on game and sort of keep score. Actually, it’s more like organized chaos.”

Jason da Cuhna, one of the original members of the group, described the club as a pick-up league.

“We have players from all walks of life and different levels of play,” he said. “I’d say, about a quarter of our regulars are military. They have a good sense of humor and a way of making new players feel welcome and a part of the team.”

Cheshire said the commitment and teamwork required in hockey translates easily into a military career. He recently recruited one of the Rocklin players to join his reserve unit at Beale.

“I’d wanted to join the military for the longest time. My grandfather is a retired lieutenant colonel who flew a P-47 in World War II and later in Korea and Vietnam. My father served in the Air Force in the ‘70s,” said Airman First Class Kevin Duff, a new member of the 940th Security Forces Squadron. “I wanted to be a third generation airman, but I was nervous about joining and wanted to be sure I joined for the right reasons.”

Duff said Cheshire was instrumental in his decision to join.

“Major Cheshire was key in helping answer questions I had about the Air Force and the reserve. He put me in contact with the right people and he was also the one who swore me in for my initial enlistment.”

In addition to fostering personal relationships with the other players, da Chunha said Cheshire has spearheaded the team’s grassroots effort to maintain the outdoor rink where the team meets to play.

“The first time we needed to repair the nets and cracks in the surface, we took up a donation amongst ourselves,” da Cunha said.

Since then, the city has stepped forward with plans to resurface the rink every couple of years. Because of the improvements, the rink has now become popular with the other sports groups, including soccer and women’s roller derby league.

“The rink brings a good sense of community. When the hockey team gets together to our Sunday game, it’s the church for us. We play hard and break bread together,” said da Cunha.

For Cheshire, the sport is not only a recreational passion, but a connection with his personal family.

When it come to community involvement and bringing others into the sport, Cheshire said it’s a classic case of “like father, like son.”

“My father initially got involved with local youth hockey programs,” said Cheshire, “then transitioned to a more formal roll with the North Pacific Hockey League assisting young players develop and get scholarships to attend universities across the country. Now he’s the general manager of the Fort Vancouver Vipers and I’m a team scout for the organization.”

Cheshire said he’s helped recruit over a dozen players for the Vipers over the past couple of years, including two young men from the Roseville/Rocklin area.

“My dad and I both love hockey and we love helping kids grow into responsible young adults,” Cheshire said. “It’s a commitment to be out her at 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Being a part of a team develops a sense of responsibility and accountability. It’s the first step to reliability in school or the workplace and it’s where you learn to give back to the community you’re a part of.”