Hockeyville 2015 nominations to include U.S. ice rinks

Kraft HockeyvilleA very important program that raises funds to upgrade community ice rinks in Canada is expanding to the U.S., the NHL and Kraft foods announced Monday.

On Sunday, I proposed starting up a similar program in Florida, or at least Tampa Bay, because of a lack of Hockeyville in the U.S. Well, this solves some of it at least.

  • If you didn’t read Sunday’s blog (shame on you) or the NHL’s announcement, here’s how Hockeyville works:
  • The winners are technically towns and not ice rinks as communities are nominated.
  • Voting is held through several rounds to advance to the finals.
  • One finalist each from the East and West get $50,000 for arena upgrades in 2014’s contest. Top two receive $100,000 and grand prize winner gets a NHL pre-season game hosted at their arena. For 2015, the grand prized is increased to $150,000.

Details will be released in the coming months with a bigger announcement and kick-off during the Winter Classic on Jan. 1 in Washington (I’ll be there in the outfield).

Now, I presume all rinks are eligible in the U.S., and that they’re not going to discriminate based on regions. Bookmark this blog or to learn more details.

While the pot of money is larger for a greater impact for Florida rinks, they have to compete against all these rinks in the U.S. and maybe they’ll be lumped into Canada’s competition, too. That remains to be seen.

So, I still am pushing for my HockeyBay idea of fundraising to upgrade rinks here to make them top-notch and safe.

Rickety rinks

I haven’t been to all of the Florida rinks—mainly anything on the Atlantic coast save for Panthers IceDen, but having a few issues in the rinks down here in a warm climate isn’t enough of a sob story to win. I generalized some issues at the rinks in Tampa Bay that need to be addressed, but there are much worse. Fortunately one of them, the Clearwater Ice Arena, fixed an carbon monoxide issue in 2011 that caused 23 people to get sick. I’ve been to plenty of dingy rinks through the years that are more deserving of winning a national contest for upgrades.

I can think of two in Erie, Pa., in particular. One is the Ice Center of Erie, which used to be called the Igloo Ice Arena. I played there in a tournament during one my midget years in high school then came back to play some pick-up games in 2006 when I interned for the newspaper there, Erie Times-News. Nothing changed from 2000 to 2006. I haven’t been back since, but apparently the rink closed because of all the mounting issues, according to the Erie Times-News:

ICE general manager Steve Tuholski said the rink needed a new heat system, repairs to the entire floor and a new cooling tower, as well as about 2,000 pounds of Freon to recharge the system — at a total estimated cost of $400,000 to $500,000.

Tuholski said the cost of the floor alone was estimated to be between $300,000 and $400,000.

“It would be a hefty financial toll to get it back up and running,” Tuholski said.

Yeah, that sounds about right. Some other funky details about the rink included an unused office hanging well over one of the benches. My coach in midget told the lone girl on the team that was her dressing room and she looked in disbelief because there wasn’t even a curtain to hide her from the entire rink. We made room for her in our locker.

The bench came down really low to compensate so you couldn’t hop over the boards too well. If you could, you might hit the office. I’m surprised the glass window never broke. The showers were gnarly and I don’t know if you could even define the locker rooms as rooms.

Obviously $100,000 or even $150,000 wouldn’t have done anything for the rink. It’s a shame because Erie was already underserved for ice when it came to that community. The Erie Zoo’s land has the JMC Ice Arena, which closes during the summer and doesn’t open until November, leaving only Mercyhurst Ice Center’s rink available, which is an excellent facility, but is busy with figure skaters and the college teams. Also, Erie Insurance Arena’s ice is primarily used for the OHL’s Erie Otters.

JMC has a cool look both inside and outside, but needs some TLC. Outside, JMC looks like a 1960s old state park building. Inside, well, it needs help. In 2011, the ETN/Go Erie wrote about the struggles of that ice rink ran by the zoo and even with about $1 million of work over the span of a decade, it still needed more than $1 million of work in 2011. I never got to revisit the rink in 2006 to see what changed since I was there as a teen, but remembered some funky features. The lobby area was cramped and our dressing room was upstairs and was a large loft without a real bench. My teammates weren’t sure if we were going to break through the floor.

That was just in the walls of the room, let’s talk about getting there. Have you tried to walk up and down wooden steps without a handrail in goalie gear? I assure you it’s a thrill. There’s padding to break your fall from the gear but that’s it. (Also not the only rink I’ve had to walk down or up stairs in goalie gear to get to the rink.) So that needed some work.

What I loved about the rink was the one wall that has the U.S. and Canada flags crossed on a frosted glass wall, leaving natural light shining through. It’s just beautiful and I remember that rink fondly. I earned a game MVP in our tournament at that rink, despite our team getting smashed like 11-4, I stopped at least 60 shots. I’m not kidding you. Check out this Erie Times-News/Go Erie photo gallery of the rink through the years and stop on photo No. 3 to enjoy the view of the wall.

Come to think of it, Erie is in need of a brand new arena with at least two sheets of ice. It might be worth recruiting kids there to have their families move here to get ice time and live.

I even put those two rinks above my hometown Hagerstown Ice and Sports Complex, which didn’t have enough money to build showers when it opened in 1998. Sometime around 2009, work started to fundraise and build showers. As of March of this year, the project still isn’t completed. That’s far more manageable.

I’m excited for Hockeyville to be available in the U.S., and while there are rinks far more deserving elsewhere, this is also an opportunity to gain from another’s loss and build hockey in Florida.


One thought on “Hockeyville 2015 nominations to include U.S. ice rinks

  1. Pingback: Improve access to grow Lightning fan base in Tampa Bay | hockeynutsandbolts

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