Inline hockey coming to Kapolei: Island players look forward to coming in off playgrounds
Nov 23, 2009 (The Honolulu Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Richard Pentecost's dream of building Hawai'i's first indoor, air-conditioned inline hockey rinks is weeks away from reality in Kapolei, and people like John Chun can't wait to start playing.
"Everyone's excited," said Chun, a 25-year-old inline hockey player and coach who also runs Mililani's inline hockey league with his brother, Kimo. "This is going to be a big boost to inline hockey in Hawai'i." The twin, 17,000-square-foot rinks that Pentecost hopes to open under one roof in late January will feature state-of-the-art playing surfaces and "toe-to-top" clear boards that will let fans see all of the action of the puck, Chun said.
Pentecost, a businessman and entrepreneur from New Caledonia, is building a 50,000-square-foot complex on 2.1 acres he owns off of Kalaeloa Boulevard that will house the two rinks, bathrooms, snack shop and pro shop.
He hopes the opening of his Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas will boost interest in the sport of inline hockey in the Islands and increase the number of players, now estimated at 500.
"My son got involved with inline hockey 11 years ago in Hawai'i, and I thought it was a very silly sport because I played soccer for 35 years," Pentecost said. "Then I got to like it as a fan and then as a coach. Then I became a sponsor and then I became treasurer of the league, and now I'm president of the O'ahu Inline Hockey League." Pentecost declined to say how much the project will cost. He's currently negotiating to hire a full-time inline hockey director/management consultant to help him determine prices for admission fees, tournaments and clinics .
"At this point," Pentecost said, "I don't know what to charge. You plant the seed first." The facility is designed to upgrade the skills of Hawai'i players, who now can play only on blacktop surfaces in heat and rain while trying to bang their pucks off of wooden boards and cyclone fences.
Chun has played in tournaments on the Mainland where the puck moves much faster on the kinds of floors Pentecost is installing -- and caroms differently off of the uniform boards that surround Mainland inline hockey rinks.
"Especially for the kids, this will be much better," Chun said. "I've learned to adapt. But for the kids, it's like a whole new game on the Mainland. Everything's faster and the angles on the boards all change. Our younger kids are at a disadvantage ." Rob Moylan grew up playing ice hockey in Detroit and now considers himself the oldest inline player on O'ahu at the age of 45.
At the blacktop rink he plays on in Hawai'i Kai's Kamiloiki Community Park -- one of three on the island -- Moylan has had games rained out.
And when the sun's beating down and the trade winds die, Moylan has seen adult players suffer from dehydration while skating in helmets and shoulder and chest pads.
On the Mainland, inline hockey players often drive two to three hours to get to a facility like the one Pentecost is building, Moylan said.
So Moylan won't mind making the trip from Hawai'i Kai to Kapolei.
"To get to a facility like his, it'll be worth it," Moylan said. "It'll boost enthusiasm tenfold for inline hockey, and it'll boost our league members." Pentecost acknowledged that his project is similar in concept to the Ice Palace in Salt Lake, Hawai'i's only ice rink that hosts ice hockey games, parties, exhibitions and free-skate time.
Anita Owens, the manager of the Ice Palace, says the two businesses might divide some customers involved in both inline and ice hockey, but acknowledged that Pentecost's building "is unique." "Unlike us," Owens said, "he does have competition from the outdoor rinks. But it is inside and it's air conditioned, so there's that." As a business, the Ice Palace has suffered from the down economy. But it's also seen a sudden boost in revenue during teacher "furlough Fridays." "A lot of our school field trips have been canceled because of furloughs and families cutting back on expenses," Owens said. "But on furlough Fridays, we're super busy. We get about 100 people on Fridays when normally we'd be empty." Laurie Apiki, the mother of two inline hockey boys from Kane'ohe, said her sons' primary interest has always been the inline form of hockey.
"They like it because it's more challenging," Apiki said. "With a lot of sports, all you do is run, but you don't have to balance on skates. And even a baseball's bigger than a hockey puck, which you both have to hit with another object. Inline hockey requires more skills, balance and coordination and the ability to maneuverer a puck with a stick around opposing players." Over the years that her sons -- Shaun, 10, and Daniel, 23 -- have been playing, Apiki has seen too many slippery blacktop surfaces on the Windward Side to allow kids to play safely.
"You cannot skate on a basketball court when it's wet," she said. "Too dangerous. The safety of our kids comes first." So she's eager to attend her sons' games in the Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas -- rinks that she says will better prepare Hawai'i players for Mainland tournaments.
"It's like that movie, 'Field of Dreams,' " she said. "If you build the facility, the sport will grow." Reach Dan Nakaso at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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