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Perkins Can’t Get Break for Trying

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Darren Perkins got the word a couple of days ago and winced. He had been selected to play in his first Roller Hockey International all-star game.

But the heady Bullfrog defenseman wasn’t feeling so appreciated.

Tired was more like it.

“I had planned to be in Hawaii that week,” he said of the layoff before the all-star game July 8 at the Pond.

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No doubt Perkins will stick around the Pond to play. After all, he has earned it. He’s one of the league’s top penalty killers and his 28 points ranks third in scoring among defensemen.

But you can’t blame him for wanting a little time off. It has been a while since Perkins had more than a couple of days to himself.

The long ice hockey season, extended by lengthy playoffs with the champion San Diego Gulls of the West Coast Hockey League, was followed by a three-week European roller hockey goodwill tour that ended in mid-May. When he got back to his San Diego apartment, Perkins had about enough time to change his shirt before driving to Bullfrog training camp in Fullerton. Anaheim opened the season June 1.

“It was a long ice hockey season and I came in a little tired,” Perkins said. “Roller hockey takes more energy because you can’t glide like you can on ice. You have to push with your legs harder.”

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Nevertheless, Perkins has appeared in all 10 Anaheim games this season and he’ll be on the floor again tonight when the Bullfrogs face the Oakland Skates at 6 p.m. at the Pond.

An original Bullfrog who was on the 1993 league championship team, Perkins, 28, played in all but one of 24 games a year ago, and he has been as steady as they come since RHI was founded.

“I believe he is one of the best, if not the best, defensemen in this league,” Bullfrog Coach Grant Sonier said. “He certainly is an anchor of experience and talent on this team.”

A left-handed stick handler, the 5-foot-10, 190-pound native of Wainright, Canada, has knocked around minor league hockey in his professional career. He played for Toledo of the East Coast Hockey League before signing with the Gulls and in 1994 was named to the ECHL all-star team.

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He recorded 65 points on ice with San Diego over the winter and was named the league’s best defenseman.

But like his teammate Victor Gervais, Perkins has found a niche in roller hockey. In 1995 he led the Bullfrog power-play attack from the point, scoring four power-play goals. His 83 penalty minutes were second-lowest on the team among regulars and he is tied for third in RHI with three short-handed goals.

He also had a good season in 1994, compiling 30 points on six goals and 24 assists.

Perkins says he’s not sure how much longer he can continue to play all year around. If he had a choice, though, Perkins would be in roller hockey the rest of his playing days.

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“We’ll be in the middle of the ice hockey season and me and the guys will get on the phone and just start talking about the summer back in Anaheim together,” Perkins said. “We won’t talk about ice at all. We’re talking about getting back together. We enjoy playing together and winning.”

Perkins is known as a tenacious competitor and it’s not unusual for Perkins to use his body to block his shot.

“Perky goes all out, all the time, every day. He gives his all every time,” former teammate and current Bullfrog assistant Coach Brad McCaughey said. “You have to like him because he is a great person. He has a very quick wit, but he has a humble side, too.”

Said Sonier: “He knows and understands the differences between defense and offense. That’s something that many players in the league don’t understand.”

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Perkins was a little shocked at the all-star selection. For years, he figured that he had done enough on the floor to deserve to play in the game. But because he had not been selected, Perkins got used to using the all-star break to go on holiday.

“I feel I’ve played just as well the last three years and it didn’t happen,” he said. “Why this year?”

Perkins was reminded that he had a goal and two assists in an 8-4 victory over Oklahoma and a hat trick against San Diego in a 7-6 loss Thursday. At that pace, he’ll set a personal mark for most points in the roller hockey season.

That was good enough for Perkins.

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