Hockey fans turn attention to Bay Area for championships on and off the ice

While the nation's eyes are focused on the Tampa Bay Lightning playing for the Stanley Cup against the Montreal Canadiens, some of the biggest hockey fans in the world are focused on a different series of games being held in the Bay Area.

The Tournament of Roller Hockey Series, TOHRS, is being played in Wesley Chapel at the Advent Health Center Ice Arena.

"All year we have our regional events, they have to play in a regional event to qualify for nationals." shared George Brown, the national tournament director of TOHRS Hockey. "This is what they come to do, they come to win nationals and win a gold medal."

This year's event is the biggest in history with 227 teams competing at all age levels.

"Really, it's the world championships of roller hockey. We have kids from Colombia, Venezuela," said Chris Treft, the video and media manager of TOHRS. "Tampa Bay has become one of the best markets for hockey in the country."

There are teams from all over the U.S., Cayman Islands and South America. 

Though there is a cross-over from roller hockey to ice hockey and back, there are still differences in the arena. 

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"It's a more skilled game for roller hockey," Brown explained. "There's a lot more scoring."

Player Christopher Goodwin from the Lizard Kings Team from Georgia said, "I feel like it gets you better with your hands if you play with teammates who play (ice) hockey."

Like ice hockey, roller hockey works on similar skills for controlling the stick, maneuvering for shot sequences and scoring. 

Goodwin explained, "I love how it's various teams from different places... Any chance I get to play roller hockey I'll play it."

"This is a pinnacle of our sport here," said Brown.

That shows in the caliber of the players who participate.

"I play roller hockey, I started playing roller hockey, I ended up playing ice hockey throughout my high school and college career and came back into roller hockey," shared Kyla Sanders from Fort Myers.

Sanders is one of several players competing on multiple teams.

"I'm playing in the women's division. I'm also playing in the men's division and the over 30 as well," Sanders said. 

With all of the action happening on the ice during the Stanley Cup Final, Lightning player Pat Maroon will be also watching this TOHRS Championship because his son Anthony plays in the league.

LINK: Learn more about the Tournament of Roller Hockey here.

There are a series of quarter-finals, semi-finals and championship games for different teams set to be played today.


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