EAST PROVIDENCE — With little fanfare, a local sports legend passed away recently, but to those who knew Roland “Rollie” Woodcock his legacy will play in their minds forever.
A resident of the city, Mr. Woodcock, 70, died Thursday, Feb. 7, following a 10-month bout with stomach cancer. He leaves his wife of 44 years, Muriel, two children, Mori and Roland Jr., as well as numerous grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and a host of hockey devotees.
Few people knew Mr. Woodcock as Roland. Most knew of him as Rollie, as in “Rollie’s Skate Shop,” the name of the sharpening business he owned located just off Newport Avenue in the Rumford section of the city.
Mr. Woodcock’s relationship with generations of hockey players and ice skaters was well established. His was the place to go to have your skates sharpened with skill and precision. A master at his trade, Rollie was simply regarded as the best sharpener in the area if not the business entirely, at least that’s what many locals would say. His customers simply swore by his ability to manicure a tenth-of-an-inch worth of steel.
Mr. Woodcock owned his shop for some 36 years, but he sharpened skates for many more. He was remembered in East Providence for his time spent at the old Dudley Richards Ice Rink, long since home to the USA roller skating oval.
Just about every top skater in the state — hockey, figure or otherwise — trusted Mr. Woodcock with their blades from the Rhode Island Reds at the famed Rhode Island Auditorium to members of the Providence College and Brown University Division I men’s and women’s teams to high schoolers, pee wees, bantams and squirts.
Mr. Woodcock’s shop was considered a bit like a museum to his customers, its walled filled with pictures of the famous for whom he meticulously and by eye sharpened their skates. Many of the pictures were adorned by signatures with the phrase, “Thanks for the edge, Rollie.” And when he was finished, he would hand the skates back to their owner with a familiar “O.K., my man.”
A fine player in his own right, he was a member of championship teams in early 1960s at Hope High when the East Side of Providence school still offered hockey. Mr. Woodcock remained close to the game he loved throughout his life, but his craftsmanship wasn’t solely spent on ice skates. In the summers, though he still worked on skates, he also sharpened many a lawnmower blade, shears and other equipment for his customers in the landscaping industry.
The sentiment written by local player, coach and devoted Rollie’s customer Scott Cronin in an on-line condolence to the Woodcock family likely speaks for the many, “We have lost a legend in Rhode Island hockey lore! He was the man who gave us the ‘edge’ and put a smile on your face every time you stopped by the shop.”