Centralia's Devon Taylor Represents Team USA at World Skate Games, Helps Revive Local Club


Having recently returned from competing at the World Skate Games 2022 in Argentina just a few weeks ago for Team USA’s roller hockey team, Centralian Devon Taylor is now coaching kids in his hometown in the same sport he loves to play. 

The Chronicle sat down with Taylor, 19, and his mother, Jennifer Locy, to talk about their experiences traveling abroad, the surprising popularity of roller hockey internationally and the roller hockey club Taylor now helps coach at the Centralia Rollerdrome. 


When a Sport Takes You Places

Argentina is not the first county Taylor has visited to represent Team USA and compete against other international teams or train. Since roller hockey isn’t wildly popular in the U.S., it makes it difficult to train as international professionals don’t visit often.  

“In March I went and I trained in Spain for two months to learn from some of the best players in the world and get as much practice as we could,” Taylor said. “Here we’ll practice as a team probably twice a week and I’ll practice individually maybe four times (a week), but over there they’ll have maybe four or five days a week where they practice as a team. They have multiple divisions, so it’s 10, 20, 30 kids your age, all practicing together. So it’s huge in helping me grow.”

Locy said the training camp was about an hour north from Barcelona.

“Like he said, they learned from some of the best. Little skills that aren’t necessarily taught here, even like which way to point your stick when on defense,” Locy said. 

They added that it had been surprising to see just how much bigger roller hockey is internationally compared to its popularity in the U.S. This is most evident in where the sport is played. In America, athletes have to find a roller skating rink  that remains open and that will be it — no bleachers for fans or an official scoreboard. 

Overseas, athletes play in arenas. 

“Everywhere else I’ve been for hockey they have hockey arenas. We obviously play here and it’s just a skating rink, but it’s not like that there. They don’t just do skating for fun, they just do hockey,” Taylor said. 

The practice was needed to help compete internationally as Team USA doesn’t afford the same amount of funding to its roller hockey team as other countries do, meaning the team itself can’t practice together as often as other teams. 

“A lot of these other national teams, they’re either from smaller countries where the whole team pretty much lives in one city or they have better funding. I know like Colombia and Chile, I’m pretty sure they usually fly to the location of the tournament like a month prior, whether it’s the men’s or the women’s or the juniors, and they train together,” Taylor said. 

The next roller hockey tournament Team USA plans on competing will be in Italy in 2024, and Taylor added there are plans to try to have the team meet up in Colorado before for full team practices. 

“If we go through with that I think we could do a lot better,” Taylor said. 

At the most recent tournament in Argentina, Team USA dominated its division, though it was a lower division. The team defeated other international teams from Egypt, Uruguay, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand. Aside from winning the Challengers Cup, the team earned the opportunity to move up to a higher division at the next tournament. 

“It was crazy to win the whole division. We got a lot of popularity from that and just being able to hold the trophy up as a team and celebrate was an amazing  feeling,” Taylor said. 

Despite being far from local, Taylor and his teammates were adored by the locals who loved the sport, with fans even cheering for them in the streets. 

“They would walk down the streets and people would just start yelling ‘USA USA’, just going out and getting dinner. USA is big there even though they were in the lower division, they love USA players,” Locy said. 

Strangers would walk up to them at restaurants to ask to take pictures with them. 

“San Juan is the biggest place for roller hockey in the world. Going there and being part of a national team you feel like a celebrity,” Taylor said. 

For Locy, it was also a point of pride to see her son compete for Team USA. 

“Seeing your son in USA gear and hearing the national anthem, you get emotional,” Locy said. 

She added that even just being with the team in Argentina people would ask for her autograph too, though she would just sign it as “team mom.” 

This was the first time Taylor had played on the adult team, as he recently became too old to play for the juniors team. 

Seeing the popularity the sport already has abroad, Taylor is now aiming to grow its popularity in the United States.


The Centralia Sharks

In October, Taylor helped bring back the Centralia Sharks, a local roller hockey club that meets every Saturday morning from 8:30 to 10:30 at the Centralia Rollerdrome for practice sessions. The club was forced to stop holding practices during COVID-19 but Taylor, along with Team USA teammate and Centralian Corbin Gross and Team USA coach Brian Stallman, restarted it. 

They hope to help foster the sport’s popularity locally and get more kids playing it at a younger age. 

Locy explained that she had Taylor in skates by the time he was 1 year old, but he didn’t start actually playing roller hockey until he was around 11 years old. 

“I started at around 10 or 11 years old, which in terms of all the other countries that’s pretty late. They’ll start kids out playing hockey at around 3 years old,” Taylor said. 

As a child, he excelled at speed skating and won seven gold medals in tournaments by the  time he was 5 years old. His speed is what helped him catch up with other hockey players despite not having actually played the sport as long as they had. 

“I’m known as one of the faster players,” Taylor said. 

Taylor wanted to help kids interested in the sport here learn the fundamentals faster. 

At this past Saturday’s practice, 10 kids participated and were split up into two groups based on skill level. The two-hour practice session featured drills on passing, dribbling and shooting and ended with a four-on-four scrimmage game. 

“If we install the good habits we have learned playing out of the country and get rid of all of the bad ones, they should be able to compete with the rest of the world in the next 10 years hopefully,” Taylor said. 

He added that a lot of the kids hope to be able to play internationally like he has and ask him what it’s like overseas. 

The Centralia Sharks club is for children ages 6 to 16 and the club fee is $40 a month. For more information, email centraliasharks@gmail.com.