It has been a tough winter for hockey fans in Mount Pleasant.
With Central Michigan University’s club hockey team suspended for the year, coupled with the NHL lockout, all fans have to look forward to are replays of hockey games on TV.
The Isabella County Events Arena, 5165 East Remus Road, has felt these effects as well. Now, with the NHL’s players and owners signing the collective bargaining agreement for another 10 seasons and the club team’s return set for next year, hockey is coming alive again.
“I think the people who come in and skate are feeling good that it has ended,” Director of the ICE Arena Rob Flynn said. “It puts them in the mood for hockey.”
The loss of the club team for the season has also caused a problem at the ICE Arena.
“In terms of the youth programs, revenue has been the same, but, with the loss of the CMU club team, we lost between $30,000 to $40,000,” Flynn said. “This is without them having ice time and games, no concessions at the games or buying at the pro shop. It’s a big impact.”
With the lack of sales in sticks and other equipment, the arena faces a problem, with January being the busiest time of the year. Unlike other ice rinks, the arena has not seen a decline in youth hockey.
“Youth hockey is just starting to get into their games,” Flynn said. “I think there will be more adults wanting hockey when they see the NHL is back up. Especially college students.”
One of the employees at the arena played on the club hockey team last year, and some of the players have even talked about getting together to skate prior to next season.
“I think it is somewhat unfortunate, but it’s good it was lessened to a year,” Flynn said in regards to the hockey team. “It was really a strong club team, and I think they will bounce back.”
Although Flynn admits the NHL does not have much of an effect on the kids, college students and adults are more often to be big fans of the league.
Tom Westman, who has worked at the arena for six years, said traffic at the arena has gone down since the lockout.
“I just don’t think people are seeing hockey and wanting to come out, but it’s already started to pick up,” Westman said.
Brighton sophomore Dominic Dimaggio was walking around campus with his Todd Bertuzzi jersey in celebration of the lockout’s end.
“I was relieved when I heard the lockout was ending, because I’ve been frantically trying to find my hockey fix by even going to (Grand Rapids) over the winter break,” Dimaggio said.
For Dimaggio, it has been tough to see nothing but basketball highlights on “SportsCenter” during the winter season. This year reminded him of the 2004-05 season, when the players were locked out for the entire season. The game Dimaggio was most intrigued for was the now-cancelled Winter Classic game, where the Detroit Red Wings would have played the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on New Year’s Day.
“That was a shame. I was looking forward to it,” Dimaggio said. “I was actually trying to save up some money to get some tickets at the Big House.”
When the first game of the regular season comes around, Dimaggio already has plans despite the shortened season.
“I’m gonna grab a six-pack, sit down on my couch and watch it.”