After Two Years of Uncertainty, Roller Hockey Makes Their Return to the Rink


Published September 30, 2022
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The Montclarion
Captain Garret Negron hopes the team can replicate their past success in this upcoming season. Photo courtesy of Garret Negron.

After 933 days of waiting and uncertainty, Montclair State University’s club roller hockey team finally looks to roll into training camp for their long-awaited comeback season, thanks to the hard work and dedication of those who’ve been with the organization since the beginning.

During their inaugural 2019-2020 season, the Red Hawks tore through their regular season schedule with a record of 10-5, as well as state and regional tournaments, and were gearing up to play in the 2020 National Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (NCRHA) tournament. Team co-founder, first-year head coach and former player Zach Davis, said that it was a dream come true for him and co-founder Garret Negron.

“It was [Negron’s] vision,” Davis said. “We tried starting an ice hockey team at Rutgers [University]-Newark when we were both there and we ended up both transferring out and we said ‘Alright, let’s start a roller team.’ We came here and got it kickstarted, we brought in some people who really helped us bring it a long way.”

The roller hockey has been in and out of commission for a few years now, but now they are in full swing and ready to play again. Photo courtesy of

The roller hockey team has been in and out of commission for a few years now, but now they are in full swing and ready to play again.
Photo courtesy of Garret Negron

Unfortunately, due to challenges caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the tournament was unceremoniously canceled. Davis remembered the confusion and heartbreak he felt when the season was canceled prematurely by the onset of the pandemic.

“We didn’t know what exactly was going on, just like the rest of the world,” Davis said. “We were a little upset because they kept pushing back Nationals a couple of weeks and kept saying that they were going to put in new safety protocols but a week later we got the call that it was canceled. It was heartbreaking because we put in a lot of effort and the odds were against us.”

The conference the team plays in, the Eastern Collegiate Roller Hockey Association (ECRHA) Division III, did not schedule games during the 2021 season. In addition, university policy at the time restricted the team from playing games. The team has not played a match since March 7, 2020.

Davis said that in order to keep the team together, several players played together in local house leagues, to stay in shape for matches while maintaining the team’s chemistry.

Even in the midst of the pandemic, many of the players of the roller hockey team played smaller games to stay in shape. Photo courtesy of

Even in the midst of the pandemic, many of the players of the roller hockey team played smaller games to stay in shape.
Photo courtesy of Garret Negron

In the wake of the pandemic, several key players either graduated or transferred to other schools which played through the pandemic. In addition, the team was without a coaching staff. The program looked to the club’s origins to solve both of these issues. Davis went from player to head coach to provide stability behind the bench.

Montclair State brought in Santo Competiello as an assistant coach. He’s been involved with roller hockey ever since he first picked up a stick while growing up in Brooklyn, New York. He played for several semi-professional clubs as well as Team USA’s 23 and Under squad. He said he met Davis and Negron as players before the club was founded.

“I met some of the [Montclair State] kids at the local rink in North Arlington,” Competiello said. “And I met [Davis and Negron] at open hockey. At the time I was in my prime playing [with] Team USA and playing pro and they wanted to develop as players and I took them under my wing.”

Competiello was originally set to be the program’s first head coach but could not take the job due to work and other time restrictions. But when asked to help out this year, he accepted. In addition to securing wheel deals that lower the cost of playing, Competiello also said he plays a key role in recruiting.

“In our local area, if you’ve been playing indoor roller hockey, everyone knows each other,” Competiello said. “[We] also try and recruit the ice hockey kids that still want to play at a competitive level.”

As training camp gets underway, the team’s roster is deeper than ever, fielding a mix of roller hockey veterans and promising former high school ice hockey players making their debut. Co-founder, captain and senior defenseman Negron said he hopes to pass down what he’s learned to the next generation of roller hockey players.

“As the returning captain, I feel strongly equipped to lead a team of new players,” Negron said. “The two years between seasons have given me time to grow playing semi-pro and tournament hockey. The game has truly slowed down for me and I want to use my skills to develop the immense talent in this program.”

Despite the challenges, expectations for the Red Hawks are still high. Negron said the team looks to replicate their past success.

“This season I expect a similar turnout as the 2020 nationals run,” Negron said. “Our program lost some great players during our downtime but the players we gained can easily match that level.”

Going into training camp, the team's roster is deeper than ever. Photo courtesy of Garrett Negron

Going into training camp, the team’s roster is deeper than ever.
Photo courtesy of Garret Negron

Negron said that he is excited that all of the team’s hard work through the pandemic is finally going to pay off when the Red Hawks open up their season in the coming month.

“The return of the roller hockey club means everything to me,” Negron said. “We built this program back in 2019 and had all the pieces to win a championship. To get the message that the 2020 Nationals tournament was canceled was beyond heartbreaking. After three years of downtime, we were finally able to field a full, competitive team and I couldn’t be more excited to roll this season.”

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