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Hampton junior Dave Butler competes in international roller hockey tournament

| Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

Dave Butler wanted to be a soccer player. As accomplished as he could have been, choosing that route probably wouldn't have landed him halfway across the globe by his junior year at Hampton.

Instead, he opted for hockey. Not ice hockey, though.

Inline hockey might be a lesser-known sport with a cult following, but after playing on school-sponsored teams as well as in independent leagues and travel tournaments, Butler, a defenseman, saw an opportunity to join the Team USA junior men's inline team.

“It was really just friends that influenced me to play,” said Butler of getting his start in the sport.”

After sending an application with coach references and a list of his accomplishments, he got the call. He would be headed to the 2017 World Roller Games in Nanjing, China. The event is put on by the Federation Internationale Roller Sports, an international organization that conducts roller hockey competitions between established and loosely affiliated national organizations.

“I had no idea what to expect going into it,” said Butler, who flew with his parents and sister 14 hours to Beijing before taking another flight to Nanjing, which is near Shanghai. “It was so cool. They had events for all of the roller sports — skateboarding and speed skating —so you could go around and watch the other events.”

Butler has seen his share of success in Pittsburgh-area inline hockey. He was named top defenseman for his age group in the annual State Wars tournament, where provincial teams compete from each state for the United States Roller Hockey Championship. He also has won multiple regional tournaments and competed nationally with travel teams.

But the experience in Nanjing was on a different level. The team placed seventh of 18 teams.

“That's pretty good for us,” he said. “We're from all across the U.S. and practiced only once before. These other teams practice constantly and are together a lot.”

Butler also pointed out stylistic differences, whereas many of the teams outside the U.S. take a more direct approach to the game. He also noted the support received from his family.

“Honestly I couldn't have done this without them,” he said. “They did so much for me.”

As for the future, Butler plays no other sports and wants to focus his efforts into landing a scholarship through one of the organizations that sponsors roller sports or inline hockey, which is not recognized by the NCAA.

“I just want to keep playing,” he said. “I love the game. What I want to do and what the coaches always talk about its giving back. I want to give back to the sport because the sport has given so much to me.”

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.

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