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Inline's Gretzky



Some have called Colorado Springs Thunder's C.J. Yoder (pictured) the greatest inline hockey player in the world, hands-down.

Now in his sixth year as captain of the U.S. men's team, which has won eight of 10 gold medals in the annual International Roller Sports Federation World Championships, Yoder has earned the respect of the international inline community and the devotion of countless up-and-coming skaters.

Yoder moved to Colorado Springs in 2002 to start the Rocky Mountain division of the Pro Inline Hockey Association (PIHA) with the help of his father. Five teams, including Yoder's first-place Thunder, comprise the western division, while seven teams form an eastern division based in Pennsylvania. Like many professional sports, inline hockey continues to vie for Olympic recognition, as well as attention for its immense talent.

"We lose a lot of kids to ice hockey," says Yoder, who led the PIHA in points at press time. "I moved out here to coach the young teams and hopefully keep them in our sport. We want to give them a professional-caliber organization where they can make a living some day."

Yoder began playing both ice and inline hockey at age 5, eventually committing full-time to the latter. He says the sport is enjoying a big upswing at present, and talk is on the table for new start-up leagues around the country and in Canada.

As for the game, inline is as fast and exciting as ice hockey, and arguably demands more puck control and skill demonstration. Teams play four-on-four doubleheaders at the Siha-Nexed Inline Arena (3325 Meadow Ridge Drive) during their season.

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