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MLRH World Championship
After the suspension of Roller Hockey International (RHI) for the 1998 season, Major League Roller Hockey was founded in 1998 in Alexandria, Virginia by entrepreneur Bill Raue. The inaugural season featured two franchises from the suspended RHI (the Anaheim Bullfrogs and Buffalo Wings) and 18 new franchises, with 11 in the United States, one in Canada and six in the United Kingdom. The first games were played during the summer of 1998. Hugo Belanger of the Virginia Vultures, former Roller Hockey International leading scorer, finished the inaugural season leading the league in goals (79), assists (79) and points (158). The Anaheim Bullfrogs defeated the Orlando Surge to win the first Jason Cup title in front of 10,000 fans at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California.
While MLRH operated successfully in its inaugural season, the league went on hiatus for the 1999 season. Roller Hockey International returned in 1999 for one last season before folding for good. MLRH however fell victim to the demise of RHI and was brought down as professional roller hockey flamed out in 1999. According to Bill Raue, "There were so many bad feelings when RHI folded with $40 million in losses that it was virtually impossible to play at the professional level."
Returning in 2000, MLRH operated throughout the Midwest and Eastern seaboard, playing with primarily amateur players. Starting in 2005, MLRH expanded to a Super League with the American champion facing the European champion in a world championship. In 2009, MLRH moved to a pro tour-style league before returning to a traditional home-and-home style league in 2010.
In 2008, Bill Raue brought aboard former professional ice and inline player Doug Jones, who had a reputation for being hard, but fair, when it came to league policies and enforcement. Jones, who had much success with the Wayne Gretzky Roller Hockey centers, which at one time had five locations in the western and eastern United States, had also been a pivotal behind-the-scenes organizer in the resurrection of professional inline hockey in Southern California, the Elite League, IHA, Jones as both a player and later as president of IHA, had moderate success with helping to promote and get the league recognition. The league played in the Anaheim Convention center during the 2006–2007, season. Jones's team the SC Bulls were in first place when the league ceased operations after 6 regular season games. Jones, known for his hard stance on rules and no-nonsense attitude, had MLRH owners frustrated with their inability to "complain" to turn things their way. This included failure to pay franchise fees and other league expenses. Jones began cleaning up MLRH and removing the teams and owners who had not met their financial requirements – a move that clearly brought him much criticism by the teams and owners who had been used to running things their way.
"MLRH had a great product, my goals were to recognize the leagues' assets, its players and put forth fair and reasonable rules and codes of conducts to ensure growth and an even playing field for all who participated." – Doug Jones, MLRH Commissioner, 2009
In 2009–2010, Jones set structure with teams in place and a board of governors which included team owners to head MLRH back on track with their issues and problems. With the difficulty in managing self-serving personalities who tried to benefit themselves rather than the league, Jones and Raue made the decision to scrap the democratic process and eliminated the board. MLRH then proceeded to have two of its most popular seasons in 2010–2011, and 2011–2012, where the Mission Axiom won both championships and dominated the playing floor with a record of 30–0–0, in regular-season play. Jones also recruited and developed a Midwest division, which resulted in the addition of the Chicago Carnage, Motor City Assault, Ny Rockers and Buffalo Excitement, in 2011–2012. This accompanied by the Mission Axiom, Hollywood Dream, Anaheim Bullfrogs and Arizona Arsenal, MLRH had a resurgence in 2011–2012 with a "West vs. East" final between the Mission Axiom and the Motor City Assault. The finals resulted in Mission winning the league championship, two games to one over the Assault.
MLRH also re-invented itself as it brought forth "Rollerhockeytv", (rollerhockeytv.net) to viewers across the world. RHTV, a webcast of MLRH games, brought viewers "live" action of MLRH games from California and the Midwest. During the 2010–2011 season, MLRH featured division games from the Pacific division for viewers to partake and watch. This bolstered by the success of sponsors, MLRH had record numbers for revenue and a game on February 12, 2011, between the Pama Cyclones and Mission Axiom which garnered over 10,000 views. In this game, Juaquin Chavira and Chris Connole respectively of the Cyclones an Axiom, squared off to a fight that drew a crowd of over 500 in attendance. Rollerhockeytv.net also acquired sponsors like Mission Hockey, Labeda wheels, Tour hockey, Revision and Rinkrat wheels.
In 2011–2012, MLRH and rollerhockeytv.net continued its presence, webcasting a record eight events from both California (The Rinks in Irvine) and Michigan (Total Roller Hockey) for games during the season. During the MLRH playoffs, games were not webcast due to MLRH and its production company, Videotrails, failing to reach contract terms. MLRH has secured new production and will be webcasting the State Wars hockey event from St. Louis, Missouri, August 2012 and begin webcasting its regular season in October 2012 once again, from Irvine, California at the "Rinks" in Irvine. The league brought back the Anaheim Bullfrogs of RHI and on opening in October 2011, retired Joe Cook's jersey. In December 2011, MLRH repeated by retiring Rob Laurie's jersey; both are high up in the rafters at the "Rinks" in Irvine.
"Our 2011 - 2012 season was our most successful to date. We showed that the league could run divisions in other parts of the country and in the finals, with the Motor City Assault defeating the Mission Axiom in game one, we saw that the opportunity with careful and planned growth, MLRH could continue to expand into other regions". – Doug Jones, MLRH Commissioner, 2012
MLRH is the only professional league that runs a regular season and playoffs with a $10,000 purse to be paid to the players. As the Mission Axiom can attest, the team was paid both times they won their championships in 2011 and 2012.
For the 2012–2013 season, MLRH has a Pacific Division and Midwest division and is working on expansion into the Texas and Florida area with the "Lone Star and Sunshine Division". MLRH is also working on teams in Southern Florida as well. The 2012–2013 MLRH Finals have been set for Novi, Michigan in March 2013 and MLRH has awarded a semifinal seed to its brother league, MLRH Europe, (mlrheurope.com) for the 2013 playoffs in the Midwest. MLRH Europe's top team will come to the US to play in the playoffs and have an opportunity to compete for the $10,000 cash purse in the 2013 post-season.
MLRH Europe ran its first events this year in 2012, including the European Cup, which saw the Koovee Rollers of Finland defeat everyone on their way to the European title. MLRH Europe is slated for their next big event in Mannheim, Germany, October 5–7. President of MLRH Europe is Setti Mulari.
Read more about this topic: Major League Roller Hockey
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