Q & A: Daryn Goodwin, NARCh president
What does it feel like to be the head of what’s considered by many to be the world’s largest amateur inline hockey championship tournaments?
Visalia native Daryn Goodwin grew up playing ice hockey, but later became an inline hockey convert. He played at the highest levels of the sport, helping get Roller Hockey International on its feet as a member of the Oakland Skates in the early 1990s and winning gold medals with Team USA later in the decade at international roller hockey championships.
He played NARCh from the onset, and later purchased the tournament series.
NARCh, which stands for North American Roller Hockey Championships, has become a global phenomenon, with participation from 6U to 40-plus age divisions.
Goodwin lives in Encinitas, where NARCh is headquartered, and continues to play ice and roller hockey and occasionally coaches his sons, Caden and Rylan.
California Rubber: You participated in the first NARCh Finals in 1994 in St. Louis. Can you tell us about that experience?
Daryn Goodwin: The very first year, we used an off-site rink in addition to the rinks at All American Sports Mall in St. Louis. I was the tournament director at that off-site rink, and even had to jump on the rink and ref a few games. In addition to helping run the event, I also played competitively for the Koho Hosers. We were one of the favorites to win it, but we didn’t.
The whole atmosphere was like the Wild West that first year. We had guys with roller-rink, ball-hockey backgrounds – some who were fairly new to the sport and started playing from simply skating on Rollerblades outside, and ice hockey guys that converted over.
It was double-elimination then; you lost two games and went home. The rink I ran had mostly adult teams. There were some teams that went 0-2 and went home, and weren’t too happy about it. Now, it’s a little more forgiving with teams guaranteed at least four games at NARCh.
CR: You continue to play competitive inline hockey in the 35 & Over Division. Do you like to play in your own tournament?
DG: No, but I do play in some other tournaments. When I’m playing in my own tournament, I kind of feel guilty because I think I should be doing something else connected with running the tournament.
CR: NARCh bills itself as the “World’s Greatest Roller Hockey.” How does NARCh live up to that image?
DG: We’ve done it for a long time, and I think we’ve become good at it. We do a lot of preparation ahead of time, so when problems tend to come up, we’re usually prepared to deal with them ahead of time.
We have a great staff and are able to do some neat stuff, especially with social media. It’s not at the level of other tournaments; it’s higher. I don’t think anyone can touch us with what we’re doing with video.
We do a lot with sponsors on site. People who play NARCh know they’re going to have a great experience before they even get to the tournament.
But probably above everything else, though, what makes NARCh is the competition; you can’t say you’re truly the best team without winning NARCh.
CR: This will be the 22nd year for NARCh Finals in 2015, and the first time that the Finals have been split into the West Coast NARCh Finals (June 17-28 in Huntington Beach) and the East Coast NARCh Finals (July 15-26 in Estero, Fla.). How wide is NARCh’s appeal in the United States?
DG: Just through word of mouth, NARCh is well known. I think we’ve had players participate from all 50 states, but I’d say we’ve only actually had tournaments in about 25 of them.
There are some places we don’t go to anymore. We had a small impact for a while in Boise, Idaho. We used to go to Washington State and went to Oregon quite a bit, and we also went to Washington D.C., Maryland and Connecticut. We don’t go to Texas anymore.
Rinks have closed in some places and there’s no longer as much competition there to put on a tournament.
Hotspots for inline hockey today remain New York, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Michigan – teams from there compete at a high level – and California remains the mecca for the sport. In the Southeast, we’ve gotten more interest from North Carolina and Georgia. Florida has fallen off a bit, but having the Finals there every couple of years helps.
CR: You call the NARCh Pro division the “pinnacle” of the sport. Why is that?
DG: For one, the best players grow up playing NARCh and know that it’s the best tournament and toughest to win. Once they’re older, they naturally aspire to play in NARCh Pro.
We give out $20,000 in prize money, and it’s the highest profile tournament in the country with the most exposure.
Also, the manufacturers put a lot of time, money and energy into building their team for NARCh Pro, and they really want to win it for the exposure for their brand. If you’re in NARCh Pro, it legitimizes you as one of the best players in the sport.
CR: How has digital media impacted NARCh?
DG: I think we’ve uploaded more than 250 videos in the last five years to our Web site – NARCh.com; it gets a ton of views. In the past, people have read or heard about NARCh, but people from all over the world can now find out exactly what NARCh is all about. They can watch the footage and judge for themselves.
CR: Northern California teams have become more successful over the past several years. What would you attribute that to?
DG: I think a lot of it has to do with the facility they have now in the Bay Area – Silver Creek Sportsplex in San Jose. It was kind of “Build it and they will come,” venture.; it truly is a state-of-the-art facility. The people at Silver Creek do a good job and the San Jose Sharks have obviously generated a lot of interest in hockey up there.
We hold Winternationals there every year and have the Finals there once every two years, plus a regional tournament, so we’ve given them (teams in Northern California) a competitive field to play in.
They see quality teams on a more regular basis, and that’s helped raise the level of play for everyone. They’ve closed the gap with Southern California and some teams from Nor Cal are the best in the state for their age.
CR: What do you see in the future for NARCh? For instance, you had a drone flying inside Germain Arena at last year’s Finals in Florida and obtained usable footage.
DG: For NARCh to be on top of the sport for so long speaks volumes. We’re more passionate than anybody when it comes to running great events and giving everyone who participates a memorable experience.
I’m sure we’ll continue to push the envelope incorporating technology. The drone footage last year at Germain is a great example of that.
NARCh is not only a blast to play in; it’s cool.
– Phillip Brents