COLUMBIA — Since the late 1950s, roller hockey players have used Empire Roller Rink in Columbia their home for pickup hockey games.
Fast-forward 50 years, and owner Willie Trent is still carrying on the tradition started by his parents. Every Tuesday night, the rink gives area players the opportunity to play pickup roller hockey for a small fee.
“These are the local guys,” Trent said.
During the summer, the rink sees fewer hockey players due to college students returning home.
“When the university starts, there’s a lot of people that come in from out of town that have played hockey in St. Louis or other places. If they come here to school, they still want to keep up with playing,” Trent said.
Without the saturation of college students, a group of players from Columbia continue to lace up their skates each week. The low numbers sometimes require players to fill in positions they aren’t familiar with.
Josh Noble sports a dark purple bruise underneath his right eye that he received while playing a role he doesn’t typically assume.
“I was playing goalie and got in the way of a puck,” he said.
Noble said injuries won’t keep him from playing in the pickup games.
“I also had to get six stitches in my chin about six months ago and I wore a face mask for a couple weeks,” he said.
While Noble sacrifices his body to play, Trent sacrifices a night of regular business.
Trent has been around roller hockey for his entire life and doesn’t mind hosting the pickup games, even though his financial consultant reminds him he is not making a profit.
“I don’t get tired of it. I like it,” Trent said.