In recent years, Cabrini’s roller hockey club has been diminishing in popularity, despite the team’s efforts in the championship series for the past two years.
“When I played for Cabrini, we used to have bus loads of students come watch the games,” Rich DeMatteo, 2005 Cabrini graduate and current head coach of the roller hockey club, said.
DeMatteo remembers a time when student-fans made a night out of the Sunday games. Fans would come up with catchy chants and often got in disputes with rival fans. DeMatteo finds the recent decrease of interest in the games frustrating.
“The Sunday night tradition seemed to die when the classes of 2005 and 2006 graduated and then newer players on the teams didn’t bring out friends,” DeMatteo said.
The main struggle the club faces with bringing fans to games is that the games are not played on campus. The roller hockey club is not part of the athletics department, nor is there a rink available on campus, so games are played at Marpal Sports Arena in nearby Broomall, Pa.
According to Brian Bell, vice president and assistant captain of the club, students may not want to make the commitment to travel off campus, even if it is only a short distance down the road. There is also a lack of transportation if students do not have cars on campus.
“It is hard to grow in popularity if there isn’t an easy way for other students to see you play your game,” Patrick Gallagher, president of the roller hockey club and captain of the team, said in a recent email interview.
During championship games, the team has seen a greater increase in fan participation, but not at regular games throughout the season.
According to DeMatteo, the amount of people in the club is also a factor in less attendance at games by fans. The club currently only has around 20 members, which is much less than most NCAA sports on campus. This means fewer people to spread the word and fewer players to bring friends out.
Compared to ice hockey, roller hockey is faster paced and the teams are higher scoring.
“That makes it more exciting in my eyes,” Bell said.
But there is no hitting in roller hockey and the team is less rough than it has been in latter years.
“We also had a rougher team back then and we had some pretty violent rivalries,” DeMatteo said. “I’m sure that is why a lot of people came out to games back then.”
Unlike other sports on campus, the roller hockey club is also responsible for all of its own promotion.
Promotion for games is done completely through word-of-mouth and through social network outlets. The club’s Facebook group and Twitter account are used to post the schedule and build hype for the upcoming games.
“We are always trying to promote through our Facebook group and we are always trying to get people interested in playing for the team and coming out to games,” Bell said.
But the players are mainly responsible for their own promotion. Each player is responsible for talking about their involvement with the club and letting them know when the games are. This is the main form of getting the word out to their friends and fellow students.
“We are always trying to promote more people to come out and play because we are always looking for more and more people every year,” Gallagher said.
Though the popularity of the team is rather low, the season has been getting increasingly better in recent years. For the past two years, the team has made it to the playoff for their league, but lost the best out of three series. Years prior they were also close to the championship.
“Being in the championship and losing has made us want to win so much more,” Bell said.
The club competes in the Philadelphia Collegiate Roller Hockey League and they compete against local Philadelphia area colleges, such as Villanova and St. Joseph University.
As the team begins the second half of its school-long season, DeMatteo believes that the chances that they will make it to another championship are looking rather prosperous.
“We are near the top of the standings and I really feel that we are the only team that can stop us from winning this year. Hopefully the third time is a charm,” DeMatteo said.
Anyone interested in attending a game is asked to consult the club’s Facebook group, Cabrini Roller Hockey and anyone interested in playing for the hockey club is invited to attend the interest meeting at the end of the season.