By Laurie Gordon NEWTON — Many may not know that behind the Newton Shop Rite and Weiss Market, at 15 South Park Drive, there's a roller rink. Founded in 1995, this rink is home to Newton Roller Hockey which offers boys and girls ages five through 17 a fun way to exercise and enjoy the sport. Newton Roller Hockey is a recreational youth roller hockey league open to any Sussex, Warren, Morris, and Pike county residents. Boys and girls aged 5-17 looking for a relaxed fun way to exercise and enjoy the sport of roller hockey are welcome to join.“Newton Roller Hockey was founded in 1995 by Jim Hoffman,” said Jason Helmer, a league coach and president of a board of parents that now runs it. “ The league originated at Memory Park in the parking lot, and they used to use hay bails instead of having walls like we have today.”It started when 24 students at Halsted Middle School approached Hoffman, then a new teacher at the school, bout starting a Roller Hockey League. Hoffman told them it would take time, but assured them that it would come to fruition and now, Newton Hockey has a permanent outdoor rink and thriving programs. The league depends on the support and volunteered time of parents and players for everything from coaches to rink preparation to snack stand donations.Since the rink is outdoors, periodic renovations are necessary. “We are currently replacing the surface of the rink in the next few weeks with Sport Court,” Helmer said. “The town of Newton has been generous enough to contribute in making this happen. The new surface will give all the kids a great skating experience.”Newton Roller Hockey consists of three programs. The first is a Saturday morning Mighty Mites program which is for new skaters usually ages 5-8. Their Atlantic Division includes ages from 7-12, and the program's Pacific Division is for ages 12 and up. Ihelmer clarified that it ts not always by age. If a kid is talented enough, he/she will play in the league that suits their skills. Approximately 75-100 kids participate per season, and seasons are fall and spring. Players come to Newton from all over the area to play. Many are from Sussex County, but kids travel up from Morris County and all over to participate. Unlike ice hockey, roller hockey does not allow checking. Its a co-ed game where boys and girls work together and enjoy the fast paced play.. Teams practice once during the week. Practice is usually one hour long, starting as early as 6pm, or as late as 8pm (for the older kids). Games are played on weekends, usually Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday late morning and early afternoon. Games are three 16 minute periods broken up with two three minute intermissions. Each team plays 10 games, and each game is played at our outdoor rink in Newton, located behind the Newton Shoprite. Each game has two trained referees. “Our coaches have been the same for a few seasons,” Helmer said. “We are always looking for new help. Anyone with hockey experience that has a child playing is welcome to assist.” He added, “The league is for everyone-- boys and girls alike. We have open registration right now, and our league will start in the next two weeks. If your undecided on playing come watch a game on a Friday or Saturday nights at 6pm and 7pm under the lights.” At only $99 registration, roller hockey is very affordable. Newton Roller Hockey is a recreational league, without the pressures of other sports leagues and travel teams. Players are never penalized for missing practice, get equal playing time, and are there to have a good time.“Our goal is to provide a positive experience for every player, and we do that by creating an environment where kids can be kids,” Helmer said. “You don't need a lot of gear, and we even have lots of gear that you are welcome to try for beginners! Also, unlike ice hockey, roller hockey gear is not expensive at all. The best part is at this price, your son or daughter can play roller hockey at Newton Roller Hockey even if they are involved with another sport like; soccer, baseball, softball, or other activity.” Registration for fall is open now. Visit www.newtonrollerhockey.com/ or find Newton Roller Hocky on Facebook to register.