The playing career of Washington Capitals assistant coach Bob Woods mimics that of head coach Bruce Boudreau: a random collection of hockey franchises, from the Johnstown Chiefs to Tallahassee Tiger Sharks.
The big difference? Bruce Boudreau never had the singular honor of competing in the legendary (at least around these parts) Roller Hockey International.
Please recall that RHI was a summer league that debuted in 1993 and seemed to exist for two reasons:
1. Using minor league ice hockey players during their down time to capitalize on the then-enormous popularity of inline skating.
2. To bestow upon the world some of the most audacious and hilarious team nicknames in hockey history, like the Utah Rollerbees, Atlanta Fire Ants, New Jersey Rockin Rollers and, god love'em, the Orlando Rollergators.
"It was a chance to, number one, stay in shape," recalled Woods at Capitals development camp last week. "Number two, you got to compete. Number three, it was kind of a paid vacation."
Indeed, Woods said, the RHI treated its players like princes during his time with the league: Flying from city to city for games, staying in the same hotels as many of the NHL teams would. "It was a neat experience, and it was pretty good at the time," he said.
Especially once Woods figured out the toughest part of the job: Playing roller hockey.
Here's a glimpse at Woods's RHI career, courtesy of his Hockey DB page:
His RHI career began after he played the 1993-94 season with the Hershey Bears, which is the team he coached in the AHL before joining the Capitals' staff this summer. The Bears qualified for the playoffs that season, meaning his time preparing for an RHI team across the country was truncated.
This was significant because Woods had to relearn hockey on Rollerblades, which offered some challenges.
"I had to go to a public skate just to learn how to stop," he recalled.
That said, 22 points in 18 games was impressive for a player listed as a defenseman ... until one considers some of the other point totals in the 22-game regular season.
Let's face it, as this YouTube Classic reminds us: It was a different game.
Like, for example, the playing surface. "It was blue," said Woods. "I know my first year, some of it I played on concrete, some of it on a corn syrup mixture." (Ed. Note: It was "Sport Court," which is constructed of plastic.)
Figuring out the playing surface was a challenge every game. "Your pregame skates were used to find out which wheels worked the best," recalled Woods.
His Roller Hockey International career wasn't lengthy; although it sure beats the hockey pants off that of former New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins great Bryan Trottier, who played nine games. But it was a long enough run to earn Woods the rarest of the rare: the RHI world championship in 1997 with the Anaheim Bullfrogs.
Please recall last November, when we found an Anaheim world championship ring for sale on eBay. After telling Woods about it, he lamented that he never received one for his Bullfrogs world title.
So attention, any auction watchers in DC: There's a Roller Hockey legend on the Capitals bench who needs some bling.
Thanks to reader Rick for the Anaheim jersey photo.