The Lima Police
Department / Exchange Club Youth Roller Hockey League began
in the spring of 1996 as an idea from two LPD detectives. Ed
Monfort and Tony Swygart were looking for a way officers could
interact with area kids on a positive basis, and bring organized
hockey to the Lima area for the first time in twenty years.
They took their idea to then chief Frank Catlett, who was very
supportive, and sent the two to Lima mayor David Berger to sell
the idea to the city. Mayor Berger also was supportive, but
in a time of budget cuts made it clear that he wanted the program
to be police operated and not another Parks Department activity.
Through the cooperation of the LPD and the Parks Dept., a portable
roller rink system was purchased. A few key volunteers were
pulled into the program and the group got busy. Advertising
was sold and placed on the rink to help purchase equipment,
which was then available to kids who could not afford to purchase
their own. The 1996 season saw 130 kids participate from 7 -
17 years of age. The season ended with a tournament at Wal-Mart
and the awarding of trophies to each of the winning teams in
the four divisions. All participating members received a bronze
hockey medal. In the fall of that year, players from each division
were taken to Detroit to participate in the NHL Breakout Roller
Hockey Tournament held in the parking lot of Joe Louis Arena.
Competition from Michigan and Canada was fierce and easily handled
the Lima teams.
The 1997 season opened with a registration at the Allen County
Fairgrounds. Over 300 people attended, and Colin Chin of the
Fort Wayne Komets visited to interact and skate with the kids.
The following two years saw growth each year, with the 1998
registration reaching 250 kids. Visits to the Detroit tournament
showed marked improvement in the Lima teams. Participants got
the added thrill of having their picture taken with the Stanley
Cup, which was brought to the site by the champion Detroit Red
Wings. Late in the 1998 season, the LPD volunteers entered into
a partnership with the Lima Area Exchange Club. The Exchange
Club was looking for a youth project to get involved in, and
chose the LPD Roller Hockey League based on the broad backgrounds
of children involved. The Exchange Club purchased equipment
in 1998 but began the plans for a much more ambitious step.
Exchange Club president Merle Miller and vice president John
Rice arranged for the local schools to vacate long-neglected
tennis courts at Horace Mann Elementary School. The Exchange
Club held fund raisers and was able to pay to have the tennis
courts asphalted into one large complex for roller hockey. Two
rinks were established, one regulation, and one junior size,
allowing for the play of two games at once. The partnership
was a resounding success! Not only did Lima receive a quality
facility, which is open for kids at all times, but the neighborhood
lost the decrepit eyesore which had been the abandoned tennis
In addition to the initial equipment purchase and initial work
with developing a permanent home site for the league, the Exchange
Club also promised continued monetary support so that the volunteers
can focus their effort on managing the daily operations and
get the maximum time to spend with the youth that come out to
play - which results in yearly stipends. These stipends, in
conjunction with support from the Lima Police Department, the
City of Lima, and our sponsors and advertisers allow us to maintain
the facility and equipment for the youth of Lima and the surrounding
area. One of the goals of the Exchange Club is child abuse prevention.
By helping to provide structured activities for youth they are
able to give them something constructive to do in their spare
time and provide positive role models. (For more information
on the Lima Exchange Club please see www.limaexchangeclub.com)
The 1999 season saw over 300 kids participate on 22 teams and
again led to a two-day tournament at the new facility. It was
common for over 200 people to be at the site at one time cheering
on the kids and enjoying quality hockey. That year, two LPD
teams took 2nd place in Detroit, one losing by one goal in a
shoot-out. The volunteers from the LPD, Exchange Club, and the
hockey community enjoy their time at the rink as much as the
In 2000, the league once again included over 300 participants
on 20 teams in 5 divisions. Our end of season tournament expanded
to three days to cover all of the teams. For the first season,
the league had its own web site to display stats, teams, pictures,
and other information. And for the first time, the league sponsored
a team in the Detroit NHL Breakout Tournament in Troy, Michigan
that won a championship. The Lima Mustangs won the 17-and-under
recreational title and proceeded on to the NHL Breakout Championships
in Orlando, Florida January 12-14, 2001.
In 2001, the league put together 24 teams from the 266 players
signed up to play. We maintained a three day tournament. For
the first time the NHL Breakout tournament was played in Columbus
to celebrate the founding of the Blue Jackets franchise. Volunteers
from the league put together multiple teams in each age division
for the Breakout tournament and Lima had two champions that
year. With the National Tournament being held in Sand Diego,
the teams were not able to advance. But, Lima teams played well
in each division and accounted for a large percentage of the
teams in the tournament. The volume of participation and the
performance of the players, coaches, and fans put Lima hockey
on the map in a big way!
In 2002, the league put together 24 teams with 270 players.
Our season ending tournament was a great success with standing
room only for the fans. The NHL Breakout tournament was held
in Rhode Island and no teams from Lima could make the trip due
to the distance and the time of year it was scheduled.
We put together 26 teams with 283 players in 2003 and the crowds
seemed more enthusiastic than ever. This resulted in 12 teams
going to the NHL Breakout Tournament, which was again held in
Columbus. The format changed and instead of having regional
tournaments, the Columbus tournament fielded teams from across
the nation and Canada. The level of competition was much tougher
than in previous years and the teams held their own. Lima put
teams into the final tournament in each age group, and had semi-final
placements in the older age groups.
In 2004, the league again made preparations for a great summer
of hockey – with a new twist. The entire rink area was
resurfaced by some intrepid volunteers who learned it is better
to put down surface coating on asphalt when it is cool and cloudy.
Our facility went from plain blacktop with outlines for the
rink to a completely coated facility with ice blue surfaces
for the rinks and light blue surrounding areas. The temperature
dropped significantly and the players and fans found the games
much more pleasant – and more exciting at the end, with
the players having more energy left due to the improvement of
the playing conditions. The league put together 25 teams with
280 players, AND started a new Developmental Program for young
players 3 – 6. Due to the great participation of the “The
Little Rink Rats” and their fans, this program is going
to continue. This is a key element in the future of the league
as the original young players who started with the league move
on to adulthood.
2005, a milestone was reached. 2005 was our 10th season of existance. In that 10 years we have went from 1 rink at the Lima Senior High School parking lot too a total of two rinks located at the entrance to Lima's West side. It was in 1999 that we moved to our current location and we have made many improvements to the facility over the years. The most noticeable item was the changing of the surface over to a white/blue surface done back at the start of the 2004 season.
In 1976 the Lima Chargers who played over at the now vacant
County Market packed up shop and organized hockey left Lima.
In 1996, organzied hockey returned to Lima with the start of
this league and now in 2005 organzied hockey took stirdes to
return to the spotlight within Lima and the surrounding community.
On September 15th 2005 the landscape of the rink and the facility
changed with the addition of full size dasher boards. Gone are
the days of setting up and tearing down the rink. The new dasher
board system gives us the priemer rink in the area for roller
hockey. Pictures of the rink can be seen by clicking here.
2005 also saw success just not in major rink improvements but in registration numbers as well. The league saw a total of 210 kids particpate in the league ranging in ages from 2 - 18 years old. We also had a total 5 current and past players who filled a volunteer roll as coaches or assitant coaches. We also made strides in officating with numerous current and past players filling this role.
2005 was another successful year for the Lima Police Department
Exchange Club Roller Hockey League. We are looking forward to
another very exciting year in 2006 with increased enrollemnet
and intrest due to our new dasher board system. The new dasher
board system was an event 10 years in the making that could
have not been made possible with out the help from dedicated
volunteers through out the years who never gave up on the dream
that we would one day have a full size dasher board system.
The 2006 season saw the league again at the 250 player mark.
There were 22 teams participating in the competitive division
and the developmental division established itself as a strong
and vibrant part of the program. The new boards on the big rink
were a major improvement to the facility, AND also helped improve
the play with significant changes to how the ball is played
forward and helped to develop player skills. The season was
another great success, and the boards gave us better visibility
for our sponsors’ signs. In addition to improving our
program, the league also worked with the YMCA to set up a roller
hockey program and loaned the board system to the YMCA for an
indoor league to help grow the sport of roller hockey in the
area. We look forward another great year in 2007.
Support for the program has come from all segments of the community.
Mayor Berger and current police Chief Greg Garlock have given
full support to Monfort and Swygart. Over 30 area businesses
have donated money for equipment, and churches have provided
space for practices. The City of Lima continues to provide support
and the Lima Police Department continues their participation.
The Exchange Club also provides continuing support and the web
site continues to grow. A local based teen pregnancy prevention
agency has utilized kids from the league as a pilot project
to get their message across to teen boys. Police Officers participate
in activities with the kids during the off season including
college visits and hockey games.
Our core group of volunteers (too many to mention here, but
you all know who you are) make everything happen. They couldn’t
run the program without the support of our underwriters and
sponsors, but without our volunteers that support could not
put a program in place. As we embark on our milestone tenth
season, we look forward to the future with plans on the drawing
board for major facility improvements and goals to grow beyond
the 300 player level.