Conflicted About Kraft Hockeyville

Kraft HockeyvilleI’m having mixed emotions about what rink I’m supporting for this year’s Kraft Hockeyville.

The Rockville Ice Arena here in Maryland is one of the top 10 finalists. It boasts quite a success story and quite a few of the Capitals players’ children have played there over the years. One of them being current Maple Leaf William Nylander and his little brother Alex Nylander when their dad Michael “Circles” Nylander played here…twice.

There’s also, nearly the same amount of a drive away from me, the Twin Ponds East Rink in Harrisburg, Pa. It’s close to Hershey, Pa., where the Caps affiliate Hershey Bears play in the Giant Center.

Here’s the deal: Rockville, and Montgomery County for that matter, is probably the most affluent community in the Kraft Hockeyville Top 10. Montgomery County consistently ranks high nationally for its household income thanks to cities like Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Potomac.

I haven’t played in that rink since high school, but looking in the photos it looks well maintained. Probably just cramped and I’m sure they’d like to build new, larger locker rooms to benefit the elite teams.

Given the demographic of the families who play there, I’m sure the community could easily come up with the money itself through philanthropic partners and patrons.

Just by being in the top 10 the rink is guaranteed $10,000. I think they’d be happy with that. Moving on would mean $25,000, if they are runner-up it’s $75,000 and top prize is $150,000.

Also, one of the grand prizes is a pre-season game held in the rink. It’s too small so it would have to be played in the next closest arena…which is the Verizon Center.

This isn’t as cool of an experience as last year where Johnstown and its Cambria County War Memorial Arena was a runaway favorite. The county-owned and privately-managed rink was in danger of shutting down the last few years because of the financial challenges. The county has the largest population loss of any Pennsylvania county in the last five years, too.

The “Slap Shot” history made it endearing, and fortunately the county and state were pumping money into it anyway for a new subfloor, which couldn’t be installed in time for the pre-season game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning.

The NHL and its partners went above and beyond, providing additional improvements beyond the grand prize money to make the rink safe to play in for NHL players.

A year later, a competing rink across town, Planet Ice, announced it will shut down. If you’re a reader of this blog, you know that isn’t too much of an issue because the North Central Recreation Center in Ebensburg was being used for maybe three hours a day and somehow stayed open. It is also owned by the county and managed by the same firm in charge of running the War Memorial. A new general manager was brought to remedy scheduling issues and the Planet Ice closure solves all of that.

That community is definitely facing economic woes where they’re lucky to make ends meet let alone have enough money to play hockey. So, even rink upgrades can’t solve bigger issues regarding hockey and rink availability in the community.

I haven’t been in Twin Ponds in ages either, but the rink’s owner Reed Patton told The Sentinel in Carlisle, Pa., he has a growing list of things to replace. Really, any rink hitting the 20-year mark has growing projects that they have to tackle:

“These things are very difficult to run,” Patton said. “This is the hardest thing I’ve done. There’s stuff that just gets worn down — compressors, roof, things like that that need attention. One of the items is the roof has been leaking as it gets older. There’d be some attention to the roof. Then for the rest of it, we would have to find out what Kraft Hockeyville would allow.”

What I like the Twin Ponds nomination is the game could potentially  be held in either the Giant Center or the “old barn” Hersheypark Arena. I could easily see a Capitals-Flyers match-up in the old arena, which has been recently renovated and is still used for Bears practices and community hockey games.

And actually, Patton also told The Sentinel, that after speaking with the Bears, the game would likely be put in Hersheypark Arena:

“We would probably do that at the Hersheypark Arena,” Patton said. “We talked to the Bears about that. It’s just a bigger venue and that would hold more people. It would be a free game, too, and we’d probably end up with some kind of lottery for tickets because there’d be so much demand for them.”

 

Some of the other nominees have really, really nice rinks.

I’m sure the historic Olympic Center in Lake Placid will get some votes for the history, but with a venue that big, I feel like the money won’t go that far.

There’s another rink outside of Chicago on the list that looks posh and well manicured and another that wants to build a third ice sheet.

The only one on the list that features Jeremy Roenick narrating the poor conditions is Lakeview Arena in Marquette, Mich. They show how the roof leaks and the compressor is about shot and the glass supports are rusted.

Since I can vote 50 times a day online and another 50 via text, I think I’m going to be splitting my votes in the first round. There are some communities that need the help more than Rockville.

Advertisements

Being the Thunder in the Burg

165112_838215507448_223907_n

The last time I saw a hockey game at the Consol Energy Center was 2011 when the Hershey Bears beat the Wilkes-Barre Penguins 1-0. Somehow Braden Holtby stopped this puck. (By Charles Schelle)

I’m dusting off the blog for a game I’m pumped to see.

The Tampa Bay Lightning will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday at Consol Energy Center, and it will be my first time seeing a NHL game in that arena.

And even more special, Steven Stamkos has a chance to pot his 300th goal.

There’s so much to like about this game.

Stamkos vs. Crosby; Bishop vs. Fleury; Hedman vs. Letang; Kessel vs. Kucherov

And it’s a 12:30 p.m., game so I get to enjoy my day!

Thankfully I’m seeing the Bolts as a visitor at somewhere other than the Verizon Center, where I root for my longtime team in D.C., but there’s a slight sense of guilt as you favor one child over another.

But the oldest has yet to succeed.

So, part of this visit is as I mentioned above, officially marking off the Consol Energy Center on my NHL arena list. I saw the Hershey Bears take on the Baby Pens there in 2011 and a NCAA game the same day, but I can’t count those in good standing with the standards I made up. Even if they were lower level seats.

I managed to see the Pens and Maple Leafs in Mellon Arena before that was demolished, though.

As much as I dislike the Pens, I vividly remember details of the arena because I was so impressed with it. The high school jerseys, the Lemieux display, the Captain Morgan lounge, the great views and that they not only serve LaBatt Blue on tap, but the Tim Horton’s cart has Timbits. I got to have my creature comforts, man.

If you see a guy in a white Bolts jersey in 203, A right on the aisle, that’s me. That’s upper level center ice–perfect view.

If, by chance, you’re a Bolts fan visiting Pittsburgh for the first time, here are some recommendations of places to visit or try:

Take a ride on the Duquesne Incline. It’s an old vertical passenger car used to bring people from top the hill on Mount Washington down to the South Side. Spectacular view on clear days.

  • Visit the National Aviary. That’s a fancy word for a bird zoo, but there are some cool ass birds here. Penguin aren, natch. But there’s a room where a bunch of tropical birds will just fly everywhere around you, and if you’re in luck, they might shit on you. There’s also a new California Condor exhibit that’s up and running.
  • Get holy drunk at Church Brew Works. It’s a brewery inside a historic church, whose architecture was preserved to the point it won a preservation award. The stills are in the monastery, they have a great food menu and you can take a growler to go. There’s just so much to take in here. The confessional as a merchandise booth. The bar top that’s an old pew. The flights of beer! This place always seems to be busy. Good luck if you can find parking in the neighborhood.
  • Have some brats and beers at Hofbrauhaus. There used to be just three in the U.S., modeled after the Munich beer house of the same name, from the beermaker Hofbrau. They recently opened up shop in St. Petersburg at the old Tampa Bay Times cafeteria building, so a little less special now they expanded, but come here for a great time and some polka music. The neighborhood as other shops and restaurants to check out, too.

Enjoy the Steel City and the game and Be The Thunder!

Post-Game Edit: 

They took out Tim Horton’s and replaced all the carts with Dunkin’ Donuts! The travesty!

I will say this, though. The configuration of the DD cart is superior. You line up, pick up a cup and pump your own coffee out and press for half and half or cream and you can open up a little case with a variety of full-size donuts.

From what I recall from my single visit, Timmy’s only had Timbits available. In Tampa, that cart only had coffee or hot chocolate. Both would be served in fabulous overpriced souvenir cups. DD just had your standard, affordable but environmentally insensitive styrofoam cup.