Taylor Lachance, 21, has been playing hockey since he was seven years old, but didn’t realize how much he needed to play it until he attended SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary.
“It was the first time I hadn’t played hockey,” said Lachance. “I didn’t really know what I was going to do.”
Lachance’s friend, Cole Sonstelie from Red Deer, played inline hockey at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee. Sonstelie talked to his coach on his friend’s behalf, who then spoke with Lachance. Eventually, Lachance was able to secure a scholarship covering half his fees at Bethel, and he switched schools.
“It was nice to get an opportunity like this,” said Lachance.
Inline hockey, also called roller hockey, is played on inline skates and a hard surface. Lachance, who plays both inline and ice hockey, said the sport has a lot of finesse, and focuses more on skill and puck possession. He added that he thinks about passing to teammates more often when playing inline. Body contact is not part of the sport, he said.
Lachance began playing competitive ice hockey when he was nine. His brothers played inline, and Lachance started playing it to keep himself occupied in the summer.
“It turned out I liked it better than ice hockey… I think because I’m a lot better at it,” said Lachance.
He credits his brother Turner as influencing him the most.
“He was always really good. Just watching him makes me want to be better,” said Lachance. “He’s still really good and he hasn’t played in three years.”
Lachance, who plays defence, said his teammates’ playing styles work well together.
“We have two really good lines that are set up perfectly,” said Lachance. “We’re just a really tough team to play against because we’re really well-rounded.”
In Lachance’s first year, the team won the Southeast Collegiate Roller Hockey League Division 2 championship, a regional competition.
They made it to the national competition and finished in the top four out of 68 teams.
“It was cool just to be there,” said Lachance.
For Lachance’s second year, the team moved up to Division 1. They had a 17 game winning streak, and ended up winning the National College Roller Hockey League championship.
“It didn’t seem real, almost,” said Lachance.
The team lost the first two games of the national tournament, but were able to recover later on.
“After that we turned it on and it worked out,” said Lachance. “Everything that needed to happen for us did.”
Lachance and his teammates practice three times a week, and spend plenty of time together outside of practice.
“We don’t have any trouble bonding,” said Lachance. “We have a great team. It’s a great group of guys.”
Lachance, who is going into his third year at Bethel and studying business, said it can be difficult to balance his schoolwork with his athletic commitments. In one semester, he said, the team was out of town for four consecutive weekends. To counteract this, each sports team at Bethel has organized mandatory study sessions for everyone on the team. Lachance said these sessions have helped him handle his work load.
Tennessee is very different from what had been familiar to Lachance. From the accents to the university sports teams (Bethel has bass fishing, shooting, and bowling teams), it was like a different world, said Lachance. McKenzie, where the university is located, is a small town, so people are laid-back, he said.
This summer, Lachance has been coaching hockey at the Sylvan Lake Summer Hockey Camp.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “I get to be on the ice all day every day and work with great people.”