An Update For A Lack Of Updates

I don’t know how much of an audience I really have, if not just to entertain myself.

The posts have dropped off considerably, in part, because there hasn’t been enough to share.

It’s been a weird year, friends. It’s been a trying year.

Hockey is not something you can simply put down or walk away from. Whether it’s as a fan, a player at any level or someone who wants to build a rink.

I had to re-examine a few things, and I’m not sure if I have the answers. Enough of the cryptic, flowery language. Here’s what happened:

• My back wasn’t feeling the greatest and I knew I should have gone to the chiropractor but I couldn’t make time. I was overextending myself.

This season I was placed with a team I never played with and was asked to be a skater because there weren’t any slots left for goaltenders. I was asked to fill in goal with our goalie out, and I literally overextended myself. I really threw my back out for a number and it didn’t get better for two months. We won but it wasn’t worth it. Between work and the injury, I missed at least six straight games in the adult league I played in.

I tried to come back early, not feeling 100 percent, back to my spot playing sparingly on the wing. I hadn’t skated out for a league game in at least eight years. I was rusty and I knew it. I wasn’t awful, but with my back not cooperating it wasn’t pretty.

Our asshole-in-chief decided to call me out after a shutout loss, blaming it on me being fat, awful and that I should never play in the league again. Here’s the thing: I have gained weight from injuries and have been working to get back to form and it hasn’t happened. I would love to just drop the weight, but it doesn’t happen like that overnight. There was no respect, let alone no one rushing to my defense. Should I have clocked the guy, who ran the rink’s hockey programs? Sure, but it wouldn’t have helped my employment.

It was the most immature display I’ve ever been a part of in hockey. It was embarrassing. I knew I wasn’t at my best either.

I withdrew as much as I could from the thought of playing hockey. I was done with the team. I was done with the league, and it hurt that I felt I was done from ever stepping foot in the rink where I learned how to play.

After my Ottawa vacation where my back was still bad, I switched chiropractors and it was fixed for the most part on the first visit. It still feels great for now. Still, I couldn’t stomach playing. I didn’t touch the ice for over four months. I’ve still only hit the ice twice, in part because I work a part-time job.

I can’t exactly visit rinks if I’m not playing. I will say that for those two visits, I was pleased to see the boards and kickplate replaced at Galactic Ice in Altoona, Pa. Also, it was cool to go back to the Rockville Ice Arena in Maryland to see how much it’s grown and improved since I played a couple road games there as a teenager.

I’d love to play more but I don’t see that happening with working two jobs right now. It’ll probably be another year before I can play twice a week again, let alone more than twice in four months. My goal is to pay off all my bills before I can quit the part-time job. That could have happened this year but I needed a break from the grind by using the job for a couple of trips I’ve been waiting to take.

So that’s the first reason: injury, humiliation and depression.

The second is my efforts trying to bring any kind of ice rink to Frostburg hit a snag.

It was clear that the student group I was working with couldn’t make this an exclusively student or FSU venture. Too many barriers exist to bring one to campus and there is only so much students with a full course load can do. It was also disheartening to see so many people sign up in support and of interest working on it, but only three students committed to show up to every meeting. Even though the 40 or so people said they were interested didn’t show, those people do represent opportunity. Those are people who would come to the rink for activities and would bring a friend.

I received messages over the summer from a couple of people wondering what’s happening. I wanted to give up on it, but I decided to give it one more go by focusing on other entities that could host the rink. I have a person in the community that seems committed to helping make this happen somewhere in the area. Let’s see what we can accomplish.

I needed the mental break from working on it even though I wish I would have continued doing research on my own because even August can be too late to get things going for this year.

Those are the two big reasons you’ve seen little here, along with working two jobs. Thanks on indulging me on this pity party.

I’ll be crossing off two NHL arena visits off my list in the coming months, too. Montreal and Vegas, here I come!

 

Blizzard hockey in Ottawa

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Canadian Tire Centre on March 14, 2017, right before a blizzard would batter the arena and region.

Last week, I marked off my first visit to a Canadian NHL arena, and why not do it during Canada’s 150th anniversary, during the week of the Stanley Cup’s 125th birthday, in the country’s capital?

I was a bit brave decided to go to a Ottawa Senators vs Tampa Bay Lightning game alone as a Bolts fan … on the glass. I figured it would be harmless because there would probably 10 people wearing Bolts jerseys in the Canadian Tire Centre (or the CTC as the locals call it).

I was right there’d be no harm, but I didn’t expect people to not engage with me. In any fashion. More on that in a few minutes.

The CTC is nearing the end of its life with the organization eyeing construction of a downtown arena in the LeBreton Flats neighborhood, hoping it to open in 2021. So, it was good for once to see an arena on its way out before it’s gone. I’ve been able to do so with Joe Louis Arena eight years ago, Mellon Arena around the same time frame but haven’t been so lucky with Nassau Coliseum, Rexall Place, Meadowlands and if you’re being picky include Philips Arena  (RIP Atlanta Thrashers).

Cosmetically, it looks fine. Large seating bowl, good sight lines, interesting choices for restaurants and smart construction of said restaurants considering the layout of the narrow concourse. The five-year-old HD scoreboard looked great when it worked (it crashed during the game intro) but that’s where the compliments stop.

Let’s start with getting to the arena. I’ve heard and read that the parking lot can be a nightmare to get into and out of with the game-day traffic, so get there early. I decided on a fantastic option instead, of going to Don Cherry’s Sports Grill in Kanata. You buy a meal, you get a ticket for a free shuttle to and from the game. That eliminates the headache of parking, paying for parking and battling traffic. The food and atmosphere is fantastic and feels authentically “Grapes.” Note that because of Grapes’ history with Budweiser, he only offers those beers on draft but you can get just about anything in a bottle.

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Inside Don Cherry’s Sports Grill in Kanata, Ontario.

I should note that on this day of the game, March 14, a nor’easter was blowing in dumping a foot of snow on the region. Just another reason to take the shuttle. Despite missing the warm-ups for the game, the shuttle’s advantages of avoiding traffic and the parking lots outweigh your desire to settle in to the arena early.

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A view from my seat in Section 102 Row A

(It still took me over an hour to get back to my hotel in Gatineau after the game. That’s after the bus dropped us off at the bar. Walls of snow blowed across the slushy, snowy highway. It’s normally a 20-minute drive but you had no option than to take it slow if you wanted to live.)

Walking toward the arena, a covered walkway partially exposed to the elements provided protection from the wind, but with all the snow blowing in, it felt like walking across a beach trying to see a hockey game. The final 10 meters when the walkway ended was a gauntlet as the wind pushed against you, really testing your strength to see a game. However, kudos to those people I saw make a 2 kilometer walk from the Fairfield Inn to the arena in that brutal storm to watch the Senators.

Getting through security and the line for the ticket to be scanned was a breeze. However, it looked like that once you enter your concourse, you can’t leave and go elsewhere in the arena to explore. I should have asked during intermission but didn’t want to risk it. Unlike other arenas, there aren’t connections past the gate to the upper concourses from the lower concourse.

Instead, the escalators are in the lobby area. The design makes the lower concourse feel claustrophobic before the game when a lot of people pack into a tight area–you don’t have much room wall-to-wall. Want to walk the whole way around? Not unless you’re a member of Club Bell. The arena has a 100-level club section that prevents access. I’ve been in other arenas like Consol Energy Center and BB&T Center (which is only two years younger and also seen renovations) that’s designed its 100-level club sections in a way where you can still walk a full circle around the arena but has the club section pushed back where the seats are. I imagine wider concourses and a better club area solution will be in the offering for the new arena.

When I made it to my seat, I settled in for the game. Right on the glass where the Bolts shoot twice. Say, a fellow wearing a white Lightning jersey should get some ribbing, right?

Nope. While nobody poured beer down my back, nobody gave me a hard time, or even joked. Actually, nobody spoke to me at all. It was very, very weird not to be engaged. Even attending as  Bolts fan at a Pittsburgh game people talked to me and asked questions. I just got weird stares.

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Sitting in the first row in the corner means the ref gets in the way.

To my left, a teenager was there with his dad. Clearly the kid was embarrassed by his dad, who was on his cell phone for a good portion of the game. Then come the third period, did the unspeakable. He was one of those guys who while talking on his phone, waved his hand frantically  as play came to our end, just for his friend to see him–or his arm–on TV. This went on for half the period until his son finally told him to stop. I’m sure the guys behind him were pissed. It was distracting for me and he was to my left. See, there are people in Canada who can’t act like they’ve been there before.

Despite the silence toward me, it was neat eavesdropping on people speaking both French and English in this bi-lingual capital as well as the in-game announcements being made in both languages. Yet the presentation lacked in engagement. No chants to get the crowd going or anything. The fans finally took to themselves to get a small chant going in the third but it was too little too late.

The game itself was a sleeper for the most part with Mike Condon making some terrific and lucky saves for the Sens. It wasn’t until halfway through the third when the pace and hitting really picked up in the 1-1 game, then heading into overtime when Victor Hedman sealed the win for the Bolts.

If I would go again, I would definitely sit in a higher row. Do not buy seats on the glass at the CTC, at least in the corners. I decided to grab one because they are a tremendous deal compared to other arenas on the resale market. A front-row seat was only $30 more than what I’d pay in the upper bowl at Verizon Center. But the inconvenience got to be a little much. The first row sets back about a foot from the glass, so in between each whistle people walk in front of you to go in between sections. That got old when this family who was split up across two sections kept swapping seats and any other person wanting to cut across to this cut-out section in 101 for drinks. Plus, the distance from the glass didn’t make being in the front row as special. The best arenas have your knees pressed against the boards and your face can kiss the glass at your own risk.

Would I return to the CTC? Yes, but I’d sit in a different section and row plus choose a game with an opponent people would get riled up over. I would still take in a pre-game meal and take the Don Cherry shuttle. Plus, I’d convince friends to come with me to make it a social affair.

IMG_2371Whether it’s the CTC or the new arena, I definitely need to get back to Ottawa for a game. The city is beautiful and I couldn’t fit everything in during my stay. Part of that I blame on my back that gave out right before vacation. That didn’t make it fun or easy to walk around the city or during the tour of Parliament. It also prevented me from finding an outdoor rink to skate around. The weather from the previous weeks also thawed out the Rideau Canal and a nearby skating trail, melting my vacation plans.

Basically, I have to schedule for the dead of winter at the end of January/beginning of February to try to avoid a freak thaw like this year’s. See you next year, Ottawa?


NHL Arenas I’ve Seen a NHL Game In

Canadian Tire Centre – March 14, 2017 (Senators 1, Lightning 2 OT. Victor Hedman scores in OT to snap Senators six-game win streak. Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan returned from injury for Sens. Lightning played without injured centers Tyler Johnson, Cedric Paquette and Vlad Namestnikov. Also, Ryan Callahan out for the season. Steven Stamkos nears return but misses game from long-term knee injury. Game played during a blizzard.)

Consol Energy Center – Feb. 20, 2016 (Penguins 2, Lightning 4. Steven Stamkos scores 300th career goal. From ESPN: “At 26 years, 13 days old, Stamkos is the ninth-youngest player to score 300 goals, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He’s the second-youngest active player to get there after Ovechkin, who was 25 years, 200 days old when he scored No. 300 on April 5, 2011. Stamkos also is the first player from the 2008 NHL Draft to reach the mark; he has 162 more goals than Edmonton Oilers forward Jordan Eberle, the next-closest player from his draft class.

Lightning’s first regular season win in Consol Energy Center.)

Nationwide Arena –  Jan. 2, 2016 (Blue Jackets 5, Capitals 4 SO. Blue Jackets goalie Anton Forsberg replaced an injured Curtis McElhinney in OT. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Forsberg is the first NHL goalie to earn his first win in a game while making his debut in overtime.)

BankAtlantic Center/BB&T Center – 2012-13 (multiple/ first game: Panthers 1, Capitals 2 on Feb. 17, 2012. First time Tomas Vokoun played against Panthers in Sunrise with the Caps. Gordie Howe in attendance. Music cut out during anthem.)

Tampa Bay Times Forum/Amalie Arena– 2012-2014 (multiple/ first game: Lightning 4, Capitals 3 OT on Jan. 31, 2012 (Stamkos scores in OT. Ovechkin missed game for suspension. Backstrom was also out for a concussion.)

RBC Center – Oct. 12, 2011 (Hurricanes 3, Bruins 2/Tomas Kaberle notches an assist for his first point with the Hurricanes after winning a Cup with the Bruins the season before.)

Mellon Arena – March 28, 2010 (Penguins 5, Maple Leafs 4 SO/Phil Kessel’s 30th goal for the Leafs was the first 30-goal season for a Toronto player since Mats Sundin in 2007-08)

TD Garden -Dec. 30, 2010 (Bruins 4, Thrashers 0/Tuuka Rask’s third-career shutout)

Joe Louis Arena – March 17, 2009 (Red Wings 3, Flyers 2/Red Wings score three consecutive goals/Kris Draper’s 1000th game)

United Center – Oct. 23, 2005 (Blackhawks 4, Wild 2/Duncan Keith’s and Rene Bourque’s first career NHL goal/Brian Rolston’s 250th game)

MCI Center/Verizon Center – Pretty much every year since 1998 (multiple/ first game: Capitals 2, Rangers 3 on Jan. 3, 1998/ Dan Cloutier’s NHL debut with the New York Rangers)

US Airways Arena/Capital Centre -Nov.9, 1996 (Capitals 3, Rangers 2)

 

A Return Visit to The Ice Mine

Sunday began with the intentions to play some pond hockey  but with the wind chill at -10 F, I realized that there is such a thing as too cold for hockey.

As a last minute decision, I decided to take a buddy up to The Ice Mine for some stick time. I haven’t been there in months and haven’t been there since new ownership came in.

The rink that reminded me of where “Slap Shot” could have been staged, is getting some much needed attention.

Some very basic and others grandiose. I’ve only been on the ice rink side of the building, so I don’t know what the roller rink and other space have going on.

(And it turns out it can also be too cold to think. I forgot to take photos.)

Other than a fresh coat of deep purple paint that makes the curb appeal more attractive, you can’t miss the big project once you see the ice rink and stands.

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Look behind the players in the photo above and you see a section of the stands being enclosed. When I arrived, there was blue siding in front of the wood, and the main area had windows installed. The main enclosure was pretty much finished.

I don’t know what the full plan is,but I like it. Just enclosing a space with more comfortable seating could make this place more enjoyable watching your kids practice. On a day like today, where it was still bitter ass cold inside the rink, a hockey dad told me that it didn’t feel like hot air was coming off the heaters above the bleachers because it was so cold.

Other than that, improvements are small for now. Just simple things like putting in a functional faucet in the restroom is a huge upgrade. I was happy to see that plus soap and paper towels in there. Before, it just had a motion detection faucet that dribbled water.

There’s still a ton to do to make it comfortable. (Doors instead of plastic shower curtains in the bathroom stalls, new shower flooring, rubber flooring in the locker rooms, working water fountain near locker room.) It isn’t cheap just keeping up with maintenance for a regular rink, and it’s certainly not going to be cheap bringing the rink up to expectations, but it’s great to see progress being made.

Once it gets there, a hockey dad and I said as these changes occur, it’s important to instill respect for the facility into the kids skating and playing hockey. Once you make it nice, make sure the kids keep it nice and don’t destroy the place.

Now that my schedule has freed up a bit more, I hope to be back soon.

Have You Received the Six (and 1/2) Reasons Hockey is Unwatchable PowerPoint in the Mail? I did.

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As you can tell from this blog, I like hockey.

I play when my body cooperates, tweet some hot takes every now and again and haven’t blogged in awhile because life got busy.

This has to be the year that I’ve written or tweeted the least about hockey, but people notice when I do, I guess. It’s fun interacting with people online when they’re civil because there’s always context, even when it’s someone you don’t follow thanks to Twitter’s element of discovery.

I don’t get paid to write about hockey. Or about my thoughts about hockey either. I left journalism for the time being in 2014 and work as a communications specialist for Frostburg State University in Maryland.

When the opportunity arises, I’ll talk about hockey and write. This past week I received a very different conversation starter in the mail about hockey.

When I visited my parents in Clear Spring, they said I had mail and it was about hockey. My dad opened it thinking it’s for him (he has the same first name). The envelope is plain white, fitting 8 1/2 x 11 paper inside. The address label to me is just as generic, looking like it was made on a typewriter.

Probably the only distinguishable characteristic from this letter is a 2016 Global USA Forever Stamp.

Inside, a crudely laid-out six-page PowerPoint is stapled together with the title “Six (and 1/2) reasons why hockey is becoming the most unwatchable of the major sports.” You can peruse the whole PDF here: hockey-pot.

There are cited sources, pull quotes, some locker room language (I don’t mind but it lacks context) and a plea to bring back 1970s hockey.

The presentation doesn’t come with an introduction. No letter explaining why this was sent to me or from whom. Just the PowerPoint.

That one is addressed from a Mark Whicker in Long Beach, California.

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When I arrived back to my apartment in Frostburg, I received the same presentation.

Same style envelope, everything.

But this was addressed from a Mark Willard in Los Angeles.

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I have no clue who actually sent these.

A quick Google search shows that Mark Whicker is an Orange County Register and Los Angeles Daily News columnist who has written about the Anaheim Ducks in the last few days.

The Mark Willard in Los Angeles shows a Fox Sports San Diego reporter and radio host, who used to work for ESPN in Los Angeles. I don’t see hockey in his tweets or coverage of late. And I doubt someone working at a San Diego TV and radio station is commuting from Los Angeles.

Only the Long Beach envelope has a time-stamp on it, mailed Dec. 19 from Los Angeles.

It’s possible it could be neither of these men and be someone else. Maybe I should send them to the police for finger printing.

You probably want to know what the PowerPoint says, right?

  1. Challenging experience trying to stream games
  2. The LED board advertisements near the benches
  3. The CGI ads placed on the glass behind the goal on TV broadcasts
  4. Center ice ads make it difficult to track the puck
  5. Obstructive netting behind the goals
  6. Hiring Ice Girls to scrape the ice during TV timeouts
    1. Reason 6.5: Ads on practice sweaters will soon give way to the European league ads on sweaters
  7. (This, the writer says, applies to all sports so I guess isn’t part of the 6.5?) Fans taking photos and videos with their smartphones are obstructing other fans’ views.

The final page praises 1970s hockey, which in addition to a lack of ads and protective nets, the writer cites lower protective glass, minimal helmets, organ music over a DJ, ticket prices, etc., etc.

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I’m not going to go over and debate the points the writer, who by the looks of the PowerPoint, is older, remembers going to or watching hockey in the 1970s and is not much for the electronic age.

Some of the points raised are in line with fan complaints from over the years, others are inaccurate or irrelevant and the argument for bringing back ’70s hockey seems like someone was taking a dose of ‘member berries. (While there was not a work stoppage, there was a labor strife in the way of the competing WHA that diluted some of the NHL game quality.)

The argument against the protective nettings, calling them “Brittanie Cecil” nets comes across insensitive for the young girl who lost her life from an errant puck striking her in Columbus. I can see through the netting fine, just like the people behind home plate at baseball games. I remember an uproar about the nettings initially, but I think we’ve adapted and come to our senses that it was the best thing to do by doing what you can to prevent another fan death like Brittanie’s.

I just don’t think whoever sent this twice to me wants a friendly exchange on Twitter or wherever.

I mean, if the writer could find my apartment address (which takes more effort) and my parent’s address (easy mistake but it happens), you could find me on Twitter and just talk there.

If they found any of my prior addresses in Florida, just know that everyone in Sarasota who received it will just toss it in the trash.

I’d like to know if anyone else received these or similar mailings. Let me know by either contacting me through the blog or in the comments.

 

 

Next Steps for FSU Outdoor Rink

EDIT:

Since this post was first published, we received assistance on how to guide university bureaucracy.

The FSU Ice Rink Club is up and running, but it has to complete the boring stuff before fundraising can start.

The members are working toward creating a formal proposal and operations manual to do a seasonal rink before fundraising can start.

This is likely a two-year project. Hope to have updates soon!

We’re making progress on getting a small rink on Frostburg State’s campus, and this week will be about getting more students involved.

FSU Rink AerialWe’re going to go for a 50×100 rink and we are proposing it be located on the Stadium Gravel Lot. This lot is outside of our PE Center, beside the baseball field and across from the student center. This parking lot became a makeshift lot after construction staging, so Athletics folks will be happy to have that space blocked off and made useful.

Students are coming back into town this weekend, so this week will be about getting them together and form a student organization that can receive funding from the Student Government Association and get an account set up for donations.

How can you help?

While we are seeking internal funding, we know we need to raise money for both the rink and rental skates.

If you are interested in donating cash, we are in the process of setting up an account with the FSU Foundation  to do so. The money will go toward rink materials, acquiring rental skates and seating.

If you are wanting to donate ice skates or any other materials or supplies, please reach out to me through the comments here. Your donation can be made in-kind through the FSU Foundation, and I can assist in completing the necessary paperwork.

From here on out, I’ll post major updates about the rink here but the daily planning can be found here in the Frostburg Ice Rink group on Facebook.

Bringing an Ice Rink to Frostburg…Hopefully

You have to start somewhere, and I figured I might as well get the momentum going.

Now that I’m settled in at Frostburg State University as an employee, I feel comfortable being involved with projects that makes the campus buzz. It helps strengthen my connection to the campus and community and gives me something else to think about at work.

I’m seeking a grant at FSU to bring a seasonal outdoor ice rink to the campus. There are a lot of moving parts, but I won’t stop until it comes.

If I don’t get a grant that could be awarded this fall, then I have to wait until next June to hear the results of another grant.

What you’re here for at this blog is to be involved the grassroots movement.

I need volunteers for construction, operations and acquisition of donated ice skates for skate rental. I need to know more about the folks who will use this. I primarily want students, faculty and staff to use this. Though if it’s cold enough in December and January between semesters, I’d see about opening it up to the community.

Here’s what I can tell you:

  • The rink will be unrefrigerated. If you know someone with money to buy a 12-ton chiller and a better rink system, tell me. But we’re going au natural.
  • The rink will either be 48′ x 96′, 60’x 80′ or 50’x 100′
  • That size depends on location. I’m still in talks trying to find an agreeable location.

This both excites and scares me. The scary part is not knowing what Mother Nature will do. Two winters ago was frigid as can be. Last winter dumped over three feet of snow.

As well as hoping to acquire enough skates for people who need to rent skates.

The exciting part is seeing this rink filled, seeing people enjoy ice skating and hockey in Allegany County again. I don’t know too many students at FSU who will make the drive to Wisp Resort in McHenry just for ice skating in the winter. This helps make it more accessible for them or else that’s an 80-minute roundtrip drive plus at least 60-90 minutes of skating. That’s a three-plus hour excursion that’ll be hard to do on a school night. And a lot of students don’t have cars up here either.

I hope to share more news soon about the progress of this project.

In the meantime, take this survey about your opinions concerning an ice rink at FSU:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VTDRVQL

And if you’d like to help or donate to the cause, please leave a comment.

 

 

Responsibility in Blogging

This is sort of a PSA to any hockey blogger who cares to read. It’s some inside journalism stuff, so feel free to move along if this minutiae isn’t your lede.

Blogging is often a place to provide added analysis, arguments, pleas and an aggregated potpourri of the internets so you’re kept in the loop. Sometimes that requires actually talking to someone to enhance the story.

Sports blogging has found a way to find 10,000 niches in an individual sport or league, whether it’s the jerseys and logoswhat refs are officiating the game  or strictly how the farm system is faring.

Several of those blogs mix quantitative, qualitative and opinionated analysis. Some on a higher level than other.

Most sports blogs hone in on their favorite team, though.

There can only be so many fan blogs that aggregate what the mainstream media or team embedded media reports only to be “enhanced” with their own roasting hot takes. Some focus on the mix of People magazine meet TMZ aspect of the team but at least use its credentials to gather original reporting  to enhance the blog (and sometimes photos/videos) on their slice of hockey life reporting.

Blogs often critique player performances, propose trade scenarios and even have the open letter—a definite no-no on editorial pages because it’s basically a column. Don’t try to cheat.

Most of that can exist in somewhat of a vacuum, but certain blogs may need a question answered to give a fair analysis. You know, acknowledge that someone from the organization you are writing about is affected in all of this. Or that we can’t pontificate from the keyboard and may the internet kingdom hear all. (This entry is one of those pontificating blogs.)

I ran into that issue recently about the Washington Capitals decision to move its equipment sale and Fan Fest from a Saturday to a weekday.

The basis of the blog was going to be that popularity comes at a price and it’s difficult to make everyone happy. The solutions are few to make it better for everyone, including those working the event.

I needed to ask the organization why the move was made. The reason could be very different from what I thought the reasons would be and I’d have to start from scratch. You cannot assume what the answer is. That’s how you get sued.

However, I was asked not to contact the Capitals media relations department on behalf of the credentialed blog because they wanted to keep a positive relationship with the team. If you fairly offer critiques about player performance and front office decisions on players, coaches and prospects, then the marketing and fan experience items are fair game. Every event is a money-making opportunity for the team, even if admission is free.

Some aspects managed crowds better by allowing season-ticket members priority access to certain activations and the equipment sale.

I could have contacted the organization myself, but while my track record and reputation is good in several journalism circles, the Capitals media relations department has no clue who I am. Most Caps fans don’t know who I am either on here, or that they come here for news. This site is a hobby. Other sites were opportunities, even though as a professional journalist I should not be working for free, for anyone.

I asked the Caps PR twitter account about the change but I didn’t receive a response. It was a long shot but contacting them that way would get things in the open. Anything beyond that, phone calls, emails, I’d leave for something I’d be getting paid for.

Here’s what I would have asked:

  • Why was the Fan Fest and equipment sale moved from a Saturday to a Wednesday?
  • Depending on the answer, then I’d follow up with, Was it because the event tends to be crowded, verging on overcrowding, each year? (It’s held at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where reminders are frequent to not stand or sit in the bleacher stairways because of the fire code.)
  • Did the Metro construction on the Blue/Orange lines happening that week affect the decision? (It would have proved troublesome on a weekend to get there for some fans.)
  • Is this a one-time decision or likely be repeated in future years?
  • Do you keep track of the crowd or attendance at Fan Fest? Has it increased or decreased or stayed the same each year?
  • If crowding continued to be an issue, would returning the Capitals Convention help lessen the crowd at Fan Fest?
  • Regardless, are there any plans or talk that the Capitals Convention to return? What would it take for that event to return?

That helps cover a lot of areas, helps build rapport with an organization giving you access and helps form an informed opinion. You don’t want to risk a libel lawsuit or even be forced to write a correction or retraction because you didn’t ask the source for their side of the story.

The organization can chose to not answer any and all requests (keep records), or answer some but not all, but it still helps with building a story. With as many national and international media properties cover NHL teams, a blogger or freelance request could seem like a headache to them that they can brush off. But you never know how many clicks certain posts can produce, so at times you have to at least acknowledge the request.

I blame some of my journalism brethren for a habit by columnists to creep into blogging. I’ve seen too many columnists in daily papers, mainly at smaller circulations, hypothesize and place blame on someone or something without asking the person they’re hurling suggestions (or blame, maybe even praise) to in 550 words. The best practice in columns is to ask that source of the issue what they think, even if it leads to an awkward conversation, to get a complete view of the issue. Your thoughts may change, maybe backing down from what you originally thought, but it makes a better piece.

Your source continues to trust you. Your readers continue to trust you. And that’s not something you can easily reacquire after it’s lost.

10th Year Anniversary of Riverside YMCA Rink Closing

In my day (evening?) dreaming of an ice rink once returning to Allegany County, Md., I turned to Google to entertain me.

The search made me realize I missed the milestone, or gravestone, of the Ort Family Ice Arena. April marked 10 years since the ice rink at the Riverside YMCA in Cumberland closed for good.

In my sulking, I found a few odds and ends tied to the history of the rink. (Read my take on a 1986 study on bringing an ice rink to Allegany County if you want to go way back.)

It was well known that it was the first YMCA to have an ice rink on site of one of its clubs, but other YMCA locations, or just Y now, looked to Cumberland for inspiration.

Officials from a Rockport, Maine, YMCA visited Cumberland’s rink in 1999, according to the Bangor Daily News.  The Riverside YMCA in Cumberland opened in 1997. The ice was removed after April 2006. It’s been 10 years in Cumberland without an ice rink.

A month after that article was published, officials dropped plans to add a rink because they learned a businessman in the community was going to build one.

Probably a wise move.

The other tidbit is the whereabouts of the original Ort Family Ice Arena manager.

Gary Baldwin, who also served as an interim CEO of Riverside YMCA, is the general manager of the Lou & Gib Reese Ice Arena in Newark, Ohio. That’s just a 40-minute drive east of Columbus. It’s also about four hours from Cumberland.

Baldwin turned up on a page mentioning his Cumberland experience on the website of the National Collegiate Hockey Association, a new league for club hockey programs.

The league posted a mini-biography/thank you to Baldwin as the rink hosts the NCHA championships. The biography noted how the rink almost shuttered 10 years ago but local businesses and volunteers raised $1.5 million to keep it open.

Compare that to the fundraising campaign that still brought in money to the YMCA but they decided that the money wasn’t going to be used to save the rink.

What if?

It’s such a sad situation the rink isn’t here anymore. I really wish I had the money to build one myself here. But my luck ran out playing slots at Rocky Gap Casino, and the lottery balls aren’t bouncing my way.

Now, I pointed out on here before that it’s possible any rink could have been doomed here when the higher paying factory and manufacturing jobs left Allegany County and the area in the past 10 years.

On the flip side, when the rink closed it was when the first season of NHL hockey was wrapping up following the 2004-2005 lockout. The 2005-2006 season was the first season in the league for Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. Both the Capitals and Penguins finished last in their divisions.

Ten years later, their success and notoriety caused an explosion and resurgence in youth and particularly adult hockey in both regions. Would the rink have seen the same resurgence if it continued to operate during the rise of Ovi and Sid?

I’d like to think so but there are so many other factors. We’ve seen new rinks, renovated rinks and added sheets in both the Baltimore and D.C. areas in that time. Pittsburgh has seen new rinks but there has been a market adjustment the past couple years there, especially with a state-of-the-art Penguins practice rink in Cranberry Township. Others have closed in that metro area as there is a movement to build a new one in an armory.

But in this region—Cumberland-Johnstown-Uniontown—it’s a struggle.

As you know, Planet Ice in Johnstown is closing in July, leaving the first Kraft Hockeyville USA down a rink. That community still has two other rinks. The Ice Mine is for sale outside of Connellsville, Pa. Wisp Resort in McHenry, Md., is vehemently opposed to using its outdoor ice rink for shinny or anything resembling hockey.

Somehow, there are more people in this county in 2016 compared to 2006 but fewer people are living in the largest city, Cumberland. That’s going against trends where people are preferring to moving back to the city.

Bedford and Somerset counties in Pennsylvania—both just north of Allegany County—have lost population from 2010 to 2015. And Cambria County, where Johnstown is, just bleeds out population. The county lost 10,000 people from 2001 to 2016. That’s an entire town.

So, it’s certainly a struggle. But let’s focus back here for a minute.

I’m encouraged that Allegany County is opening hotels left and right, which means there are needs for business travelers and vacationers to be here more and more. We’re seeing more chain restaurants invest here–Cracker Barrel, Buffalo Wild Wings, a new Chick-fil-A–in addition to a new shopping center with Aldi, PetSmart and others in LaVale.

If only we can land some larger companies that pay well for people who want to live here, then the dream of bringing back an ice rink can return.

 

Exclusive: Ellenton, Fla., ice rink sold

Update:

Ellenton Ice has sold for $6 million to American Ice Rinks Ellenton LLLP, according to a deed filed with the Manatee County Clerk.

The full price is $6,020,000.

American Ice Rinks is the same owner as the Space Coast Iceplex, as originally reported, and business documents show that both rinks are registered to Matthew Smith. The deed also reveals that the seller, Mike Bennett and business partner Marv Kaplan, retain some rights over the electronic billboard they bought and constructed at the rink. That’s a prime billboard on a heavily traveled interstate at an exit shared with the Ellenton Premium Outlets.

Smith and his wife Natalia Smith acquired the Brevard County ice rink in 2014, according to FloridaToday.com.

The Smiths are well versed in ice rinks and competitive ice skating, the website reported:

Before arriving in Brevard, Matt Smith spent 15 years managing and operating an ice rink in San Diego. Both he and his wife have experience as skating coaches and were competitive figure skaters.

Matt Smith was the Junior National Champion of Canada in Figure Skating and spent four years on the Canadian national skating team. He has coached Olympic silver medalist Sasha Cohen, as well as other world-class athletes. His wife, Natalia Smith, set the Guinness World Record for the fastest spin on ice skates.

Because of their clout in the international skating community, the Smiths could boost the profile of the iceplex’s skating programs.

On the figure skating side, this sounds like a perfect fit for the Smiths. Ellenton Ice has regularly been the training home for Olympic skaters. Among those who trained in Ellenton include pairs Nathan Bartholomay and Felicia Zhang in Sochi, Mark Ladwig and Amanda Evora in Vancouver, Jeremy Barrett and Caydee Denney in Vancouver (both Florida natives!) plus Canadians Paige Lawrence and Rudy Sweigers along with Brits David King and Stacy Kemp also train at the rink for the Olympics and other competitions.

That’s a program they can directly affect the most. Youth hockey is almost on autopilot between having adult organizations and now the Tampa Bay Lightning being heavily involved in high school leagues and conducting camps. The Bolts are also providing a retired Lightning player to help co-coach each high school team.

Adult hockey? That remains to be seen. I don’t know how they handled it at Space Coast, but the director of adult hockey at Ellenton, Bill Walleshauser, wasn’t immediately rehired, according to his Facebook page.

I don’t know if Smith is bringing his own guy over from Brevard to run the program, or having someone else double duties locally, but it’s a touchy decision for some folks.

The rink has adult programs running on two sheets with six leagues, A through D plus a 30+ league. That’s a lot of people to manage, a lot of refs to schedule and having to deal with suspensions and other beer league drama.

What I’m most interested in is what Smith’s vision is for the vacant sports bar, which has had a revolving door of tenants even from the rink’s very start as the J.P. Igloo. Fun fact: The original restaurant that was supposed to be housed in that space was a R.J. Gators, which went out of business entirely as a chain then was revived in Bradenton.

Also, there’s an indoor lacrosse/soccer space in Ellenton Ice, too, that will have to be managed, along with a gym upstairs. They could use new flooring, maybe finally replacing the old Igloo logo at the entrance.

My pet peeve when I lived down there — cosmetically speaking — was this hockey player statue that was breaking through the side of the building facing Interstate 75. It’s painted in old Mighty Ducks of Anaheim colors because it was the uniform of an old youth or junior team when the rink opened. It really needs to be repainted to reflect the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Anyway, after reading and sharing stories about a slew of rink closures in Pittsburgh and Johnstown, it’s nice to see a rink staying open after being purchased.

Original:

Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex in Ellenton, Fla., has been sold to the owners of the Space Coast Iceplex in Rockledge, Fla. Price hasn’t been disclosed but not all employees have been rehired.

The ice rink has long been on the market, owned by Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett through his company MJ Squared, and business partner Marv Kaplan.

The asking price on Loopnet, a commercial real estate listings site, last year was $12.5 million. The rink recently went a minor renovation and installed a video billboard to bring in revenue beside Interstate 75 but a space for a restaurant has been vacant for at least three years. It was last occupied by Ellenton Steakhouse.