Feature Article - July/August 2006
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Adults on Ice

Grow your programming by appealing to grownups

By Stacy St. Clair



Hockey

Rinks looking to boost their adult hockey programs do not need to go it alone. Facilities have a friend in USA Hockey, the group that oversees the sport's operations nationwide.

In addition to helping rinks attain the proper insurance, the association offers assistance in marketing and running programs. It also organizes local, regional and national tournaments to give players more opportunities to play.

"We feel it's our responsibility as an organization to partner with facilities on all levels," says Ashley Bevan, the association's director of adult hockey.

USA Hockey also offers adult skills clinics to boost interest in the sport. It organizes creative programs such as a recent pond hockey championship. Forty teams participated in the tournament, which was wildly successful.

The association also prints a magazine 10 times a year. The publication is an excellent way for rinks to improve communications and learn about the sport's latest innovations, Bevan says.

"When these rinks have the proper structures for their adult leagues, the ability to sustain their own business increases greatly," Bevan says. "A well-run program breeds more players, and involving more players means a growing business."

More than 75,000 adults play hockey nationwide, a number that has climbed steadily for the past eight years. Michigan has the highest number of players, but officials have seen substantial growth in recent months in sunbelt states like Arizona and Texas.

"There is a lot of hockey buzz right now," Bevan says. "Not only because of the Olympics, but also because the NHL strike is over, and the players are playing again."


The organization's largest adult program is run out of the Twin Cities area in Minnesota. The Adult Hockey Association has 78 teams and operates leagues for seven different skill levels. It also has six beginner squads, another indication of the sport's growing popularity.

The association promotes the sport's cardiovascular benefits to perspective members. It also offers its no-check league as an option for athletes who have been injured in other sports and are looking for a new pastime.

"We don't concentrate on age or gender," Twin Cities administrator Steve Peterson says. "Only skill level is important. More and more women join every year."

Peterson also recommends ice managers work with USA Hockey to bolster their programs. And to hear Bevan's enthusiasm for helping facilities, it might be one of the best decisions an arena could make.

"The partnership between our organization and facilities is a no-brainer for us," he says. "We need to help facilities promote the sport, and when we do, this positively affects their bottom line."


Speedskating

The U.S. Olympic Team may not have loved the bickering between Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick during the Turin Games, but it doesn't seem to have harmed the sport.

To the contrary, more people than ever are taking some turns around the track.

"The interest just exploded with the Olympics," says Brad Tullberg of the Roseville Skating Center, which has an outdoor oval in suburban Minneapolis. "We did get quite a few phone calls after the Olympics from people who were interested in the sport. It's similar to what they get for figure skating at an indoor rink."

More than 200 people participate in Roseville's program. Though only a few patrons have Olympic aspirations, many have found the sport to be a great aerobic and anaerobic workout.

"It takes a little bit of commitment to offer speedskating programs," Tullberg says. "It's just not a huge segment of the population, but our philosophy is that we can open up the facility to people who don't normally use it."

Only a handful of facilities, including Roseville's Guidant John Rose Minnesota oval, have the large oval ice surfaces needed for long track speedskating. That, however, should not deter facilities with NHL- or Olympic-sized rinks from introducing the sport.

"Every rink can do short-track speedskating," says Melissa Scott, spokeswoman for U.S. Speedskating. "Those skaters who do long-track speedskating started with short-track."

The association offers a plethora of information and assistance for rinks looking to create programs. Among their greatest resources is a "club in the box" kit that includes tips on how to find coaches, insurance liability waivers and latest workout trends.

Tullberg, however, suggests facilities keep their fledgling program as simple as possible. He recommends courting adult hockey and figure skaters to try speedskating.

He also relies heavily upon the staff members who have knowledge about the sport. He describes them as his best resource.

"My advice to anyone trying to create an adult speedskating program," he says, "is the more basic, the better."