Lively Tales About Dead Teams

1993-1994 Portland Rage

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Roller Hockey International (1993-1994)

Born: 1993 – RHI founding franchise.
Died: 1994 – The Rage cease operations.

Arena: Memorial Coliseum

Team Colors:

Owner: Bill Conyard

 

Tim Conyard wanted to keep playing roller hockey.   The 27-year old represented Team Canada in 1992 (after failing to make the U.S. squad).  In the early 1990’s the sport was booming, thanks to the Rollerblading fad, and Dennis Murphy, the serial league promoter behind the American Basketball Association and the World Hockey Association of the 1970’s was putting together a professional league to begin play in July 1993.  Conyard prevailed upon his father Bill Conyard, owner of Conyard’s Sport & Hockey in Portland, to purchase a franchise in Murphy’s Roller Hockey International.

“At the time I was not really excited,” the elder Conyard told the Portland Business Journal one week before the Rage made their debut in July 1993.  He did not go on to clarify whether his enthusiasm ever intensified.

The Rage were a classic mom-and-pop operation in a rather goofy start-up league where ownership ranged from deep-pocketed Major Leaguers like the Buss family in L.A. to an unwanted, league-run club promoted by city employees at Connecticut’s New Haven Coliseum.  Bill Conyard’s brother-in-law, a doctor in L.A., signed on as co-owner of the Rage. Tim, of course, would play for the Rage as planned.  Bill Conyard’s other son Joe served as the team’s Assistant GM.

Roller Hockey International sought to capitalize on the surge of interest in inline skating – often known at the time by the brandnomer Rollerblading – with a summertime league stocked with moonlighting minor league hockey players.  RHI rules varied somewhat from ice hockey. Games were divided into four 12-minute quarters rather than three 20-minute periods.  Teams played five-v-five with only one defenseman on a Sport Court (concrete) surface.  Fighting was prohibited, punishable by a one-game suspension.  The various rule changes all supported a higher-scoring, more fluid game.  During the league’s inaugural season, RHI games averaged nearly 17 goals per game.

As RHI’s July 1993 debut approached, the Conyards’ lack of sports management experience showed.  With a roster drawn largely from local junior players from the amateur Portland Winter Hawks ice hockey team and fellow alumni from Tim Conyard’s alma mater of St. John’s (MN) University, the Rage found themselves outclassed against bigger, more experienced players in a pre-season tune-up against the Vancouver Voodoo.  Off the court, the Rage sold only about 100 season tickets for the 10,000-seat Memorial Coliseum, according to the Portland Business Journal.  By contrast, RHI’s Anaheim Bullfrogs club pre-sold 10,000 tickets for their inaugural game the same week.

The Rage finished the 1993 season with a 4-10 record under Head Coach Blake Wesley, a former Winter Hawk and NHL vet, and out of the playoff hunt.

John Black took over the Head Coaching duties for the 1994 season, as RHI expanded from 12 to 24 franchises and the season lengthened from 14 to 22 games.  The 1994 Rage eeked into the playoffs with an 11-10-1 record and then went on an upset run to the RHI Championship Series, where they lost in a two-game sweep to the Buffalo Stampede (15-3-4).

Bill Conyard folded the Portland Rage after the 1994 season.  Roller Hockey International suspended play after the 1997 season, returned for one last gasp in 1999 after taking a year off, and then disbanded for good.

 

==Links==

Roller Hockey International Media Guides

Roller Hockey International Programs

 

==Additional Sources==

“All The Rage”, Lauren Haworth, Portland Business Journal, June 28, 1993

Written by AC

October 1st, 2011 at 7:27 pm

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