There was a time where ESPN2 was home to some of the weirdest, wildest sports on TV, and not a bunch of talking heads screaming about how Tebow “just gets it.”
This was the mid- to late-90s, and rather than fill air time with talk shows, ESPN2 would air really weird sporting events that probably cost them nothing, but filled a couple of hours in the day, especially during the summer.
Today, we’re remembering Pro Beach Hockey, which might have been the strangest thing ESPN2 cooked up, right there with the Great Outdoor Games.
I hadn’t thought about PBH in a while, but apparently people in my new town have a summer roller hockey league, and I kind of want to play, so that brought up memories of me sitting on the couch watching this weird brand of hockey.
Pro Beach Hockey was exactly what the name says it was, “professional” hockey in that the players got paid based on how their team finished (most players were from Roller Hockey International), and played on a rink plopped right down on the beach about 100 feet from the ocean in California.
In true 90’s fashion, the teams all had terrible EXTREME names like Web Warriors, Xpress, Gargoyles, Heavy Metal, Dawg Pac, and Salsa.
Now, it being the middle of summer and in southern California, it of course wasn’t ice, but roller hockey.
What made the league fun was the fact that it was hockey in the middle of summer, and the league had all sorts of wild rules that made it a faster, potentially higher-scoring game, including the games having only four skaters at a time, plus a goalie.
First, there were basically no face-offs outside of the one to start each period. Second, you’ll notice aside from the center line and the goal line, there were no zones, so there were no icing or off-sides calls, making sure the game kept flowing at all times.
And then there was the end of the rink, which was basically a half-pipe like skateboarders would use, with high banked glass that was angled back towards the rink at the top to keep the ball in play. Oh yeah, they used a ball and not a street hockey puck.
Oh and there was a 2-point line, which you can see at the top of the post in the picture, which was basically where guys would rip slap-shots and hope that it didn’t go 10 feet over the net because they were using a ball.
Here’s a prime example of what a broadcast and game was like, right down to cheerleaders, rock music and even the way the game was played.
Truthfully, looking at that clip, the action on the rink was pretty bad. It was slow, and really playing defense was just getting the ball and winging it down the rink so maybe your guy could get it on offense.
The league was also famous for the skate they used, the long-forgotten and long-ago folded V-Form skates, which were famous at the time because you could stop on the like you did on ice skates, but that may have only been possible on the PBH rink, and not your normal concrete driveway.
They also made the weirdest commercials you’ve ever seen.
Oddly, the PBH season lasted about two months in real-time, usually May to June, and then games were taped and broadcast on ESPN2 from June to September. Somehow ESPN managed to turn a two month season into four months of TV programming.
In all the league lasted three seasons, from 1998 to 2000, with the Web Warriors winning the first and last championship, and the Xpress taking the 1999 crown. The league folded after the 2000 season when ESPN2 decided to stop broadcasting games.
Today, there is not a whole bunch of info about the league available, almost no stats outside of who won the championships, no player info, no standings, nothing. It’s really bizarre thing that had consistent and steady TV coverage for three years, and almost nothing remains.
So yeah, professional hockey on the beach was once a thing, the most 90’s thing I can possibly remember.