History

Some of the earliest video evidence of the sport is newsreel footage from the Giornale Luce taken in Vienna, Austria in 1938. The video shows players using inline skates with five metal wheels and a front wheel brake. Each team has four skaters plus a netminder. They are using ice hockey sticks, with taped blades, and the goals closely resemble ice hockey goals of the wire-mesh type common in Europe around that time. The game is being played with a ball on a rectangular outdoor court, which appears to be asphalt.

In the United States, the USA Roller Sports (USARS) predecessor organization was the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association (RSROA). In 1940 the RSROA published a set of roller hockey rules drawn from a booklet by the National Hockey League (NHL) which was designed to grow interest in playing hockey on roller skates. However, because of the intervention of World War II, the organization of roller hockey tournaments did not receive significant development until after this war in the late 1940s. At first skating club interest was confined to the northern tier of the United States, including the bordering Canadian cities. Puck roller hockey's spread in popularity during that period was helped along by the attention of local commercial television, which was getting its start and in desperate need for events to fill air time. The increased interest in the sport led in 1959 to the selection of a National Puck Hockey Committee to formulate special rules for the performance of puck hockey in the variety of rink sizes available to roller skates. The American Roller Hockey Association (ARHA) was formed with Joe Spillman, a roller rink operator from San Antonio, Texas as its first Commissioner. Under Spillman's direction, the sport of hockey on roller skates grew rapidly throughout the United States.

During the 1960 RSROA National Roller Skating Championships held in Little Rock, Arkansas, exhibition games for ball and puck roller hockey were held. Following these Nationals, the first full competitive season officially began in North America for roller hockey. This, of course, had puck roller hockey entirely performed on quad skates, for at that time there were no in-line skates available. State and Regional competitions determined the teams that would move on to the North American Championships.

In 1962 at Pershing Auditorium in Lincoln, Nebraska both Ball and Puck Hockey took part in the North American Championships, with the Arcadia Wildcats from Detroit, Michigan becoming the first Puck Hockey national champions on quad skates. Inline skates were not commercially available during that era.

On 1 September 1965, during their semi-annual board meeting, the RSROA installed puck hockey as an equal and separate division of roller hockey, which included ball hockey, a format most popular in Europe and South America. It was decided that both ball and puck hockey would compete under the same rules and award separate gold medal winners. Budd Van Roekel, RSROA president, was quoted in the January 1965 issue of Skate Magazine, "We believe this move will spark further growth of our roller hockey program. While we recognize the popularity of the international ball-and-cane version of hockey, we also realize that thousands of potential United States and Canadian players are more familiar with the Canadian stick-and-puck type sport. We see no reason why the two versions of the sport cannot grow side by side."

The 1966 North American Championships marked the return of puck hockey after a four-year hiatus. The final game was a nail biter and the crowd appreciated the fast pace and excitement of puck hockey. The final game was between the Canadians of Windsor, Ontario and the Wildcats of Detroit, Michigan, the defending champions from 1962. The score seesawed between the two teams and was finally decided in favor of the Canadians with a final score of 5 to 3. The win gave the Canadian team their only gold medal for the whole North American Championships. One Canadian team player was quoted in the 1966 Fall issue of Skate Magazine, "We simply had to win the (puck) hockey championships, otherwise our fathers wouldn’t allow us to return home."

Another milestone occurred for puck roller hockey in 1977, when the North American Puck Hockey Championship was held in a venue away from ball hockey for the first time. The 1977 puck championships were staged in Houston, Texas to large crowds and a great amount of publicity, as fourteen newspapers and television stations covered the event. The year 1977 was also a milestone for women with this championship marking the debut of a women’s hockey national championship.