Now that the National Hockey League announced Sunday it has reached tentative labor peace, we wondered how the local hockey scene fared while the pro scene was put “on ice” for the last several months. Turns out it was a costly loss, but the NHL lockout also might have converted some new skating and hockey fans here in Hockeytown North.
First the cold, hard truth: the loss of the annual prospects and training camps that typically come to TC every September has cost Centre ICE and the community dearly.
“The negative impact of cancelling the [camps] was tremendous,” says Ann Reeves, director of events in Traverse City for the Detroit Red Wings. “During the Prospects Camp we have eight teams bring around 50 people each up…they stay in our hotels, eat at the restaurants, golf, fish, shop and more. Losing this was a big hit to our community -- Centre Ice alone lost $200,000 as a result.”
“It’s hard when an event this big gets cancelled,” she reflects. “Momentum ceases to function and it can be difficult to get the ball rolling again. We’re hoping that the community has seen what an asset these camps are for all businesses (and fans), and that the support this coming year will be enormous.”
And yet, there have been bright spots during the NHL lockout, says Centre ICE Executive Director Terry Marchand.
“We are seeing a big jump in attendance at our high school hockey games. Our public open skate over the holidays was huge as well. I’m not sure if that is a direct result, but we’re seeing more people participating in community hockey and skating.”
Now that the current pro season is back on, planning for next season’s September 2013 camps can begin. But dates will not be announced for another 35-40 days and, since 2014 is a Winter Olympics year, the NHL is waiting for the ruling on whether its players can compete. If they can, the NHL season will start earlier, meaning training camps like the ones held in TC would move closer to Labor Day.
The lack of televised hockey, combined with a cooperative Mother Nature, has also made conditions perfect for community skating rinks. In TC alone, you can skate free on three sheets of ice – at F&M Park, Traverse Heights Elementary School and next to Thirlby Field. Many neighboring communities also maintain ice rinks, some complete with rentals, lessons, concessions and bonfires.
The newest, a Kingsley skating center which just opened this year, has enjoyed a booming first season. Village Manager Adam Umbrasas notes, “Last Saturday night the whole rink was full. There were two hockey games going on, figure skaters and parents teaching children.”