My name is Jason Chase, and I have been living in Kharkiv, Ukraine for the past 10 years. I grew up playing, among many other sports, both ice hockey and roller hockey, and I understand the value that roller hockey brings for an ice hockey player. It is a great summer sport which allows for hockey players to continue improving their skills during the off season.
I would like to provide the reader with a brief history of my hockey experience while living in Ukraine. When I moved to Ukraine, I quickly joined the hockey community, and have been an active member since. Our team has won numerous championships, both in the amateur league, and in the premier league (where ex-professional hockey players play). I came to Ukraine with my hockey equipment, but did not have a stick. So, as one logically would do, I went to one of the sports stores to get one. We asked the employee there, who turned out to be the owner, if there is a league that I can join? He said his son Sergey plays, and provided me with his contact info. It turns out that he is a well known player in Kharkiv, and he invited me to play on his team (to this day we still play ice hockey, roller hockey, and bandy together). During the following summer, he invited me to play in a roller hockey tournament in Kharkiv. Teams from all over Ukraine participated, including a team from Russia. After that summer, the rink was removed and the park where the rink was located was reconstructed. Consequently, roller hockey in Kharkiv died out.
As a result, for the summers that followed, because there was no team in Kharkiv, I was invited to play for a team in Odessa, a city located on the Black Sea. I played for the team in Odessa in the National Ukrainian Roller Hockey Tournaments for a couple summers before being invited to play for the Ukrainian National Roller Hockey Team. This was in 2016, and was the first time Ukraine participated in the International Inline Skater Hockey Championships. To put it lightly, Team Ukraine did not do so well. Unfortunately, I was unable to play for Team Ukraine, simply because I am an American and don't have a Ukrainian passport. The following year I became the head coach of the Ukrainian National Roller Hockey Team, and shortly after the Sports Director of the Ukrainian National Skater Hockey Federation.
I saw, and continue to see that Ukraine can compete at an international level, but the sport needs to become more popular. More ice hockey players need to join the ranks for us to compete at the highest level. Consequently, I put together a Kharkiv team, composed primarily of ice hockey players, to participate in the Ukrainian championships, while simultaneously worked toward getting a roller hockey rink built in Kharkiv. Needless to say, it is difficult to convince the city of Kharkiv to support projects, such as an outdoor roller hockey rink, when there are only a handful of people who play.
I therefore understood that I needed to take matters into my own hands. The city needed to be speaking with an official body, so in 2019 I created an official sports club, called Storm Chasers, and opened up a roller hockey school called Chase Roller Hockey School. Next was infrastructure. Where can we play? I approached a local factory that has a surface suitable for skating on. The downside is that I had to create boards that can be set up before practice and be taken down after every practice. Seems a bit strange, but they have a lot of events that take place there, and they don't want to have boards there permanently. Nevertheless, I do what needs to be done in order to keep the ball rolling.
I currently run my roller hockey school out of this factory. I come an hour and a half before practice in order for me to set up the boards so that we can have, what I consider, somewhat of a normal practice. Additionally, I have invited adults to come twice a week to simply play. Now we have a place to play, a place where we can practice, and a place that I can grow the sport of roller hockey in Kharkiv.
The next problem is hockey rollerblades. There is currently one store in all of Ukraine that sells hockey rollerblades. They are expensive, and when parents, and young ice hockey players see the prices, they are immediately turned away. It appears that all the hard work that I am putting into this hangs on, at this point, to one simple ingredient, rollerblades. If I am able to provide willing kids, teenagers, and young adults with rollerblades, then I will be able to put together not only an adult team to participate in the Ukrainian National Roller Hockey Championships (attracting 18-22 year old hockey players) and perhaps make the National Team, but to provide children and teenagers with the opportunity to join the sport. We are currently working with cities around Ukraine to grow the sport at the youth level, and are organizing tournaments this summer for U10, U13, and U16. It is one thing to play roller hockey, but it is another thing to work toward competing with various teams around Ukraine, and this is what I have set out to do. Not only make roller hockey popular in Kharkiv, but to popularize the sport throughout the country.
I have two streams that I operate on: one being the school that I run, which I focus on children, teenagers, and adults who have never played, and the other being the team that I assemble for Storm Chasers. On both of these levels, I simply want to provide them with the opportunity to play roller hockey.
There is a talent pool at all levels worth pursuing in Kharkiv. In the amateur ice hockey league in Kharkiv, it is forbidden to participate if a player has played professional hockey at anytime in their lives. Therefore, there are a lot of professional hockey players that don't have a place to play, because their career is over. Some are young, 22-25 years old, while others are even younger, and had played in the Ukrainian professional league, but for personal reasons, have decided not to continue. Consequently they don't have a place to play. I have spoken with many of them, and they would like to try, but don't have the funds to purchase rollerblades.
The goal of this fundraising campaign is to grow the sport of roller hockey in Ukraine by providing young ice hockey, and non ice hockey players, aged 8-22, with the possibility of making a transition into roller hockey. My aim is to raise a minimum of $5,000! With the funds, I will purchase as many used rollerblades (that are still in good condition) as possible from Europe, US, and Cadada before purchasing new rollerblades. A portion of the funds, roughly $400, will be used to purchase jerseys for Storm Chasers. In cooperation with the Ukrainian National Roller Hockey Federation, we have worked out a deal with a German roller hockey supplier. With the rollerblades, these young talented ice hockey players will have the opportunity to then play in the Ukrainian National Roller Hockey Championships, and work toward playing on the Ukrainian National Roller Hockey Team. Roller hockey is a great way for ice hockey players to develop their skills in the off season. With your support, we can change the face of hockey in Ukraine!