The French Connection at State Wars

by Tim McManus

Over the past few years, State Wars has revolutionized into not only the top tournament in North America but the one recognized all over the WORLD as best in the sport of roller hockey. Over the coming months, we will feature different people from countries near and far who have had a major influence in the sport and get their thoughts on the 'FORCE in roller hockey'.

In 2018 as an influx of international interest starting coming our way, we had the thrill of hearing that our first group of teams from France were making the trip over.  Having always had the utmost respect for the hockey talent I have seen coming from France, we were really excited to confirm that 5 teams would be joining us in St.Peters that summer.  Yoann Jalinier and his wife Marina from the HGA45 Hockey Academy have been terrific ambassadors for the sport and are the leaders for Team France at State Wars.  Working with this dynamic power couple has been amazing for our growth and we are excited to see what the future holds for Team France and more European teams!

SWH : Hi guys, can you tell us a bit about your program back home?

Yoann : Our program is pretty different than what is going on in France for inline hockey.  France is mainly made up of local clubs that play September to June.  We are more of a traveling program, as we organize camps, events, and travel to other countries.  We are open to players from all over France.  Most of our events are for teenage boys and girls.

SWH : How did you both get started in the sport?

Yoann : I got started in 1995, I used to play ice hockey and I started playing inline hockey seeing a bunch of friends playing in a parking lot near my home on the first inline skates.  I played in the first official event in France called 'Open Rollerblade' and then the first ever National Championship in '96.  After that I was hooked as a player and then coach.

Marina : My sister and her friends invited me to an ice hockey game and I fell in love with the game.  The club refused me because I was too old (11) and a girl!  After watching the movie "The Mighty Ducks" I started to play in the street, when I was 14 I met a woman playing for a club inline hockey team in my city.  My dream came true, I was playing on a team and I now fell in love with inline hockey!

SWH : What was your first year at State Wars?  How have your #s grown?  What do the players and families love about it?

Yoann : We played our first State Wars in 2018 in Missouri.  That year we brought 5 teams and last year we brought 6.  The players and families love traveling to another country and seeing different cultures.  They love the arena with multiple huge rinks, love representing France, playing against teams from all different countries and the professionalism of State Wars.

SWH : As coaches how does it feel to represent France at State Wars?

Yoann : We had the chance to both play for the French National team in multiple World Championships.  We love giving players that opportunity to play at State Wars as it is the best inline hockey event.

Marina : I know how coming to the USA for an international event when I was 18 changed my life.  I came back to France with the desire to work harder and become really better, it changed my career.  For me it is important to show State Wars to the young French players, I know it can have such a positive effect on them.

SWH : How long of travel is it for your teams to get to State Wars generally?

Yoann : From the time we arrive at the airport until the time we arrive at State Wars, it is usually 24 hours!

SWH : What % of your players speak English? Do all of the coaches?  Is the language a barrier at all for your teams?

Yoann : All of our coaches speak English well.  Most of our teenage players do not speak much English, when it comes to communicating with people it is a bit complicated but they have fun trying.

SWH : What are the highlights of State Wars your players cherish the most so far?

Yoann : I would say the first time they step on to the rink and watching the PAMA Pro Division.

SWH : Which of your teams have been most successful at State Wars:

Yoann : In 2018, we won the 2001-A division so that was great being our first time.  Last summer, we won the Womens AA and we won the Juggernaut AAA division!  Our juggernaut team was made up of a lot of players from our Jr French National team.

SWH : What do you think of the PAMA Pro Division? How great is it for your teams to watch these teams? How does it compare to the international play you have seen at the World Championships?

Yoann : For us, the PAMA Pro is the best in the World by far!  The skill level on display is just crazy. People don't usually like when we say that but the overall level is much better than what we have seen at FIRS for example. Don't get me wrong, representing your country at Worlds is the ultimate goal and honor but the skill and level of play is much stronger at State Wars in the PAMA Pro Invitational.

SWH : What are your plans for State Wars this summer?

Yoann : We have a lot of interest in France but we may have some conflicts with a European Championship dates, it is a shame that kids may have to choose.  Hopefully the dates will work out for everyone.  So we will have 4 teams for sure but hopefully have 6 teams coming out to play!  Both Marina and I will be coaching along with Hugo Rebuffet and possibly Julien Thomas.

SWH : What are some differences with the game back home and here in the United States?

Yoann : The rinks in France are a lot smaller so the pace of play is much different. We also use smaller nets back home, so the goalies need to adjust to bigger nets at State Wars. The game is also not very physical back home, so players need to adjust to how much more physical the game is played in North America. 

SWH : Who are some of your favorite Pro teams or players to watch at State Wars?

Yoann : For us Mission Black Ice has the best style of play, well maybe not the best but our favorite!  The Mission Labeda Snipers experience in key moments is also very amazing to watch.  The kids love to watch PAMA Labeda Golden Knight's Junior Cadiz, Travis Noe and John Siemer.  They also enjoyed watching the Sniper's Jaden Guzman as they can relate to a younger player more.

SWH : How important is the free live streaming for the families back home?

Marina : It is HUGE!  Almost all of the families watch it.

SWH : Marina, obviously you are very into fitness, what off rink training do you teach the teams?

Marina : I work a lot with them on physical skills which are so important. We work on strength (weight and bars), speed/agility, and cardio. Our cardio workouts are more smilier to crosscut training as they are more efficient that just running.

SWH : I know you are very involved with the women's program back home, tell us about it.

Marina : In France there are a lot of women inline players but thanks to our federation we can play in the mens division which is great for their growth. We go to State Wars with girls and organize the biggest women inline hockey camp in Europe with roughly 60 young French girls.

SWH : I see that you are training in Iran, how has that been?

Marina : I became the coach of the Iranian national team after World Championships in 2016.  They have a lot of passion for hockey and have desire to grow.  Every experience in Iran is amazing, the people are very nice, food is crazy and they really love our game.  Because of the government and the media, the rest of the world doesn't have a very good image of Iran.  But the people I know there are amazing people who didn't choose the leader in their country so when I go their I focus on the team and they become a family.  Together we have participated in two Asian Games where we won bronze medals.  The team improves a lot because of their leadership; Kaveh Sedghi is the general manager and my captain Azam Sanaei.  They dream of coming to the US and playing the best hockey, I hope one day to get them to State Wars.

For all of us in the United States, I think it is eye opening to see how much is going on in the sport of inline hockey around the World.  When I tell people about some of the countries that are coming to State Wars, they are blown away and the reactions are priceless.  People can't believe that kids in Namibia or Colombia are playing inline hockey! As head coach for Team USA, I was able to meet so many amazing people at the World Championships last summer and the passion in these countries are unmatched.  It is so refreshing to see and breathe in.  I am so happy to be able to bring this element to State Wars as it truly adds to the experience for all of the players and families from North America.  We will keep pushing the envelope and growing internationally.  Thank you to coaches like Yoann and Marina for all you do to grow the sport!