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Roller Hockey Could Be Coming To Grant Park

By David Matthews | March 6, 2017 5:32am | Updated on March 7, 2017 11:33am
 Players at the North Avenue Beach hockey league in 2015
Players at the North Avenue Beach hockey league in 2015
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DOWNTOWN — A big outdoor hockey league that's counted former Blackhawks star Brandon Saad among its players could be rolling into Grant Park, two years after losing a prime lakefront location.

The league formerly known as NAB Hockey is working with the Chicago Park District to move into Grant Park this summer after getting kicked out of North Avenue Beach in 2015. 

Now, the roller hockey league — which uses roller blades instead of skates — hopes to occupy the former skate park at Eighth Street and Columbus Drive, an asphalt lot the size of about four tennis courts. Grant Park opened a new skate park near Roosevelt Road and Michigan Avenue in late 2014. 

"There's still enough players, let me tell you," said Bob Ziegler, a league organizer. "We just want to get out there and play."

Ziegler said the league had nearly 50 teams and more than 600 players during its peak in 2013. The league consists of silver, gold, and "elite" level leagues for players of all skill categories.

Saad's team won a tournament a few years ago, and even Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith suited up once for a game, he said. 

The league had called North Avenue Beach home for about 20 years, but got the boot two years ago when the Park District leased its asphalt patch there to a marketing firm. 

RELATED: Roller Hockey Done at North Ave. Beach; Land Leased to Marketing Firm

And Grant Park would be a temporary home, too. Bob O'Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy, supports hosting the hockey league this summer, but hopes to convert the old skate park to a "health park" with exercise equipment later. 

"It's a way to make $25,000 for the Park District on just dead space," O'Neill said of the hockey league.

Ziegler hopes the league will last from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a spokeswoman for the Park District, said parks officials have not discussed the proposed league.