Chapter One : The Origins Of Frockey
No one really knows who the first person was to take a Frisbee out skating on ice. But, my friend Jens told me that his friend Jim and another guy did a mock frisbee/hockey skit on the ice between periods of their hockey game back in the late 1970’s. They even had fake blood pouring out all over at the end of the skit from their mock wounds. If that is the first incident of Frisbee committed on ice, it’s pretty ironic since it may be the earliest known forerunner of the sport whose rules I wrote to encourage good sportsmanship and non-violence.
Most people would dismiss the idea of Frisbee on ice as stunt, or a flight of imagination to be dismissed and quickly forgotten. But when the idea jumped into my mind, I immediately saw everything the sport could be, how it would work, if I could only get some people with the right skills to try it.
Not surprisingly, letting go of old mindsets isn’t as easy for some people as it is for others. I got a lot of push back and bull flak from the Hockey purists who couldn’t see any reason to create another ice sport since Hockey had been around since the Stone Age. They called Frockey, “a waste of good ice”. Imagine if the people who invented American football had said to themselves; “Why bother? There’s already a sport that’s played on grass with a ball”.
Since I began my own frisbee on ice quest back in 2003, I’ve heard reports and seen some recent video of people playing with flying discs on ice as far away as Budhapest Hungary and Moscow Russia. Some of these accounts included direct statements from the players indicating that they were inspired by seeing some of my Frockey videos on the web. Other examples seem to have evolved in isolation, completely independent of each other, like Neanderthal’s and Homo-Sapiens. Such is the case with a game called “Cherry” that’s been played up in Canada.
The sport of Frockey, or (Ice-B) as I originally called it, came out of a discussion I was having with my buddy Special Ed Niemsczyk over a few cold beers at a bar called Zeek’s in Whippany NJ. Ed was telling me about how his Ultimate Frisbee season was coming up and wanting to get a team together.
So, as I’m listening, there happens to be some Hockey on the news channel behind the bar over Ed’s shoulder that caught my eye. I said to Ed, “wouldn’t it be cool to play Frisbee on ice”? To which Ed said “yeah man, that would be cool”. Well the conversation ended with the serving of our burgers and that was the end of it. But it wasn’t the end of it for me. For the rest of the day and night I kept thinking about this idea and how it could work. I thought about all of the challenges and the dangers that might be involved a creating a hybrid sport like this. So, I wrote down my ideas, made some sketches and started to draft some rules.
When I presented the rules and sketches to Ed a few days later, he just grinned and immediately offered to help organize a game. Ed is a creative guy and also an excellent disc player and pretty good skater. So he got it right away. We started talking the idea up at our regular bar called Merrigan’s where we were able to recruit about a dozen adventurers who agreed to give the game a try.
The first game was held at South Mountain Arena in West Orange, New Jersey on a cold rainy night in April. A pretty good crowd showed up and immediately started dancing in the isles to the music I was piping through the WWII battleship speakers hanging from the ceiling of the old arena. The Frockey action was fast and furious with both teams scoring multiple goals.
In the end, the evening was a flying success if a flying success means that everyone who played and all the spectators had a great time. It was a night to remember.
There were a number of firsts that night that must be recorded. CAs fate would have it, I was the first casualty of Frockey, severely injuring my left leg on an incidental self-inflicted tumble I took when turning up ice. (I tripped)
I also want to mention Sonny, the first female Frockey player in the first ever Frockey game. Sonny, was a bartender from Lithuanian who, with her visiting friends from Europe, played against we “ugly american”. We came to find out that she also happened to be pregnant at the time of the game . So we definitely set a record for the youngest Frockey player ever that night.
The preparation for that night was interesting since I had to invent everything we needed from the goal barriers (head boards) to the no fly zone which we’ve used everything from food die to katsup to paint onto the ice. But when game night finally came it worked exactly how I imagined it. Even though half of the players were great skaters who couldn’t throw a disc for their life. And, the other half where great with a disc, but were only fair skaters at best. It was exciting and resulted in a near standoff. And we got enough great sequences on film to prove that the concept could work.
From there on, in every Frockey event that followed, the action became more and more fluid and exciting as the skill levels of the players improved. Little by little, each event garnered a more interest, more respect and belief from among the skeptics. I have to thank some of the hockey players who took the Frockey challenge, to put up or shut up. If you don’t try it, how can you say if it’s easy or stupid. A lot of them ended up being great players and having a great time. Some of them turned out to be Frockey’s biggest supporters.
Over the next ten years, through the internet, word of mouth and local media coverage, Frockey has spread across the oceans and around the world. Every few months I google frockey, or frisbee on ice, or ultimate on ice, and I see that a few more people have given it a try. Some of the videos they post are pretty cool. They’re not always playing by the Frockey rules. That’s ok. The main thing is there is definitely an interest and kids are seeing how much fun it is. I confident that when they play by the Frockey rules, they’ll see the difference in the way the game flows because of the rules, and they’ll adopt them.
It took the frockey pioneers lots of experimentation and several changes in the rules to perfect the right balance of structure and freedom. How big should the no fly zone be? Should you be able to skate over the blue line with the disc in hand, or should you have to pass it. What about turnovers and stalling. All these factors and others were examined and adjusted. And they’re still being tweaked from time to time.
The biggest debate by far though since I made the game up has been about whether or not to allow full contact like Hockey. The problem is that in order to follow and catch a disc in flight and catch it while you’re skating at great speeds, players need to take their eyes off the ice and look up. Many times you’ll see the players actually jumping to catch a disc over their head. The physical exposure that entails, and the potential injury that could be caused by allowing an opposing player to intentionally knock that person off balance is too extreme.
The rules are designed to make the game flow and to capture the skill of the skater on ice and beauty of the disc in flight. Would full contact make the game better? I don’t believe so. Frankly, I’m not surprised that some hockey coaches have actually begun using Frockey as a form of practice for their players. They intuitively see how Frockey broadens their peripheral vision and makes them better skaters
The next challenge for Frockey is to find a niche in the busy schedules of ice arenas and promote some local league involvement. In the meantime, look for another Frockey showcase event coming in 2015 ; live and streaming.