Vermont Freezes Ice Rink Schedules for 2 Weeks Through October 30

The Newport Daily Express reported Sunday that Vermont Governor Phil Scott ordered Vermont ice rinks to stop accepting ice rentals from 5:00pm October 16 through midnight October 30. According to the article, Governor Scott said the directive is intended to prevent an influx of new users from high risk areas into Vermont’s ice rinks.

Governor Scott’s order may be the most interesting executive order governing ice rinks in effect in the United States. Rather than ordering Vermont ice arenas to close for two weeks, he ordered them to stop accepting new ice rentals during that period.

Governor Scott said, “As of today {Friday, October 16}, New Hampshire’s skating facilities were closed by their governor for two weeks in response to outbreaks that have resulted in 158 cases of COVID-19 among 23 different ice hockey teams. In addition, there is an outbreak in central Vermont that may be connected to the outbreaks in New Hampshire. To reduce the risk to Vermonters, and to help sustain the progress we have made, rinks in Vermont may not take any additional reservations for the next two weeks.”

The Vermont order only makes sense in the context of the order issued by Governor Sununu of New Hampshire. Since New Hampshire has closed all arenas for two weeks, it’s likely that some New Hampshire-based amateur hockey organizations would try to avoid the lockdown by booking ice in nearby Vermont to continue their seasons as scheduled.

Rather than close Vermont arenas, Governor Scott is prohibiting new reservations, which prevents anyone from booking new ice for the next two weeks. But the existing holders of ice reservations may continue with their plans.

Since Maine is also locked down to some extent, this move by Governor Scott forces New Hampshire hockey teams to live with the temporary restrictions now in place in New Hampshire.

Although it may be a deftly-crafted executive order by Governor Scott, none of these actions in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are pro-hockey.

Update

On October 19, Vermont’s Department of Health announced it had been investigating COVID-19 associated with hockey and broomball leagues at Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center. According to the press release:

“The Health Department has been investigating cases associated with adult and youth hockey leagues and an adult broomball league. Each of the teams practiced or played at the Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center in Montpelier earlier this month. At this time there are 30 confirmed cases associated with the outbreak.” — Vermont Department of Health Press Release

As a result of this finding the VT Health Department set up a pop-up testing clinic to be held on Thursday, October 22 at Barre Auditorium for asymptomatic “people with direct links to the teams and their close contacts”. There would also be special testing clinic from Tuesday to Friday at Central Vermont Medical Center’s (CVMC) Acute Respiratory Clinic at 1311 Montpelier-Barre Road in Berlin. These tests are for “asymptomatic people who have concerns about potential exposure”.

RinkAtlas Arena Directory Update

Repairs to DiLungo Veterans Memorial Ice Rink in East Haven CT Estimated at $1.3M

The New Haven Register reported on October 8 that repairs to repairs to The Pasquale G. “Patsy” DiLungo Veterans Memorial Ice Rink in East Haven may cost $1.3 million. This is the Recreation Department’s estimate of the cost to repair the refrigeration system that is reportedly leaking glycol.

Town Attorney Michael Luzzi reportedly said that the town contacted, “three or four groups that do rinks {including the one that recently repaired New Haven’s Ralph Walker outdoor rink} so we have a pretty good ballpark figure for what this item will be. The general structural package … we believe it will fall well within what we’re asking for, if not less.”

Many of the town council members quoted in the article participated in hockey themselves, or members of their family do, so it appears that there is considerable political support for moving the project forward.

Town Council approved a larger $2.57 million bonding authorization that included funding for capital projects for the police and fire departments, and improvements to the town landfill. This rink project should fit within that bond issue.

Patsy DiLungo Veterans Memorial Ice Arena is believed to be a single-sheet indoor ice arena in East Haven, Connecticut, about 40 miles south of Hartford. RinkAtlas is looking for information confirming the number and size of ice sheets, and the year when it originally opened.

CNN Health Article Argues Indoor Hockey is a Potential Superspreader for COVID-19

On Thursday CNN Health reported Indoor sports potential superspreader events, CDC says, after most ice hockey players in Florida game infected with Covid-19. According to the article:

“One hockey player infected as many as 14 other people at a single indoor ice hockey game last spring, Florida health department officials reported Thursday.”

“That means indoor sports games can turn into superspreader events, the researchers said in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly report.” –CNN Health

Source of CNN Health’s Report: A CDC MMWR

This appears to be CNN Health’s first report on COVID-19’s impact on the sport of ice hockey. Apparently all of this stems from a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report called An Outbreak of COVID-19 Associated with a Recreational Hockey Game — Florida, June 2020. This report was contributed by three public health officials at various levels in the State of Florida, and is written in a scientific journal style.

The article references some but not all of the COVID-19 cases associated with hockey that were previously reported on by RinkAtlas:

Hockey May Not Be as Dangerous as the Florida Health Officials Believe

This report and the supporting documents from the CDC should be taken seriously, as it represents anecdotal evidence that can be used to argue that hockey is a dangerous activity from a COVID-19 transmission perspective.

However, they all need to be weighed against published scientific evidence which does not result in the same conclusions. And they need to be understood as the results of one investigation of a COVID-19 outbreak at one arena in Florida.

Another issue is that the MMWR does not sufficiently separate off-ice activity from on-ice. A health official can make the argument that they are inseparable, but the root cause of off-ice activity problems associated with not wearing masks and not social distancing are not problems that are inherent in the sport of ice hockey. These are problems with the structure and content of the off-ice activity.

For instance, banning locker room use and demanding that participants leave the arena with their skates removed and their equipment on could arguably reduce the transmissibility of COVID-19 inside hockey arenas. These are policies that have been adopted by many leagues, teams, and arena management groups.

The questions about these policies are:

  1. are they truly effective?
  2. are people who participate in hockey as players, coaches, officials, and parents of youth hockey players, doing everything they can to protect themselves?

Thanks to Peter Caggiano for the tip on the CNN Health article.

18 Players from Yale University’s Men’s Hockey Team Test Positive for COVID-19

The Yale Daily News reported yesterday that 18 players for Yale University’s Men’s Hockey Team tested positive for COVID-19 over the past three days. According to the article:

“According to a University-wide email from COVID-19 Coordinator Stephanie Spangler on Thursday afternoon, there have been 12 additional cases among team members. There are now a total of 18 COVID-19 cases stemming from the original cluster — out of the 19 team members currently enrolled and living in New Haven.” –Yale Daily News

The university says that it is making all efforts at contact tracing, directing any people who are identified as close contacts of the infected team members to isolate themselves for two weeks.

This story has developed over the past three or four days as evidenced by a series of tweets from Yale Daily News:

Athletic facilities at Yale, including Ingalls Rink, Payne Whitney Gymnasium, and the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center, have been closed for cleaning until Oct. 19.

It’s hard to imagine that this development will not impact the discussion of when to restart the ECAC Hockey League and NCAA Division I Hockey in general.

Come back to RinkAtlas for more coverage of COVID-19 and the impact on ice hockey and indoor arenas in North America.

New Hampshire Governor Pauses Amateur Hockey Statewide for Two Weeks

The New Hampshire Union-Leader reported that New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu ordered a two-week statewide shutdown of all indoor ice rinks. This is because the state identified “six ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks among hockey teams that spread to two dozen public schools”. Amateur hockey and college rinks should be able to reopen on Thursday, October 29. According to the article:

Over the past two months, the state has identified 158 cases of players and staff contracting COVID-19, including 117 linked directly to eight different outbreaks from youth hockey and another 41 cases tied to that activity. –Dr. Benjamin Chan {paraphrased by Kevin Landrigan, NH Union-Leader}

Dr. Benjamin Chan, the New Hampshire State Epidemiologist reportedly said, “We haven’t seen a lot of spread and transmission from other sports. It appears to be associated with hockey.”

This decision comes in the aftermath of last week’s discovery of a COVID-19 outbreak associated with three teams playing out of The Rinks at Exeter. The initial scope of this outbreak was 12 players who are age 16 plus one staff member from the Seacoast Performance Academy. Two teams of 14 and 15-year-old players were also shutdown as a precaution. At the time, it was thought that the earliest date that players could return was October 19.

In fact COVID-19 cases associated with hockey practice have been breaking out in New Hampshire at least since late August, as we discussed here on RinkAtlas.

Reaction to Governor’s Order is Swift on Twitter

Many members of the New Hampshire Hockey Community reacted angrily to Governor Sununu’s order. Here are a few examples:

Which is not say that some weren’t in favor of his decision:

Note to Readers

Due to a Twitter service interruption, the tweet we tried to send in the five o’clock Eastern Time hour could not be sent until almost 9pm:

QMJHL Suspends Play in Quebec

The Canadian Press reported yesterday that The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has suspended play in two of its three divisions until at least Wednesday October 28. The decision to suspend was made on Wednesday by a QMJHL body known as the Assembly of Members. This is likely the equivalent of other leagues’ boards of governors.

According to this report, The Q has two teams with significant COVID-19 exposure: The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and the Sherbrooke Phoenix had at least 26 positive cases between them after playing a weekend series against each other on October 4-5.

News of the suspension came 10 days after The Province of Quebec suspended team sports and closed sports facilities in Red Zones. Some of the QMJHL teams located in Quebec were not in Red Zones at the time of that announcement.

Update

According to Mark Lidbetter, The Junior Minister for Sports for the Province of Quebec announced C$70 million in aid to sports federations, associations, and teams. The QMJHL will get C$12 million in aid to support league and franchise operations during the lockdown. {Confirmed in Quebec gives $70M boost to sports federations to help offset impacts of pandemic.}

How Other Media Are Reporting This Story

The SuburbanQuebec announces $70 million financial lifeline to sports and recreation, Mark Lidbetter later wrote an article on the topic of the Province of Quebec’s subsidies for the industries affected by the suspension of indoor sports activity. This bill included the subsidy for the QMJHL as discussed above.

Ice Resurfacing Machine Caught Fire at Bill Gray’s Iceplex in Rochester, No Injuries

WROC reports tonight that an ice resurfacing machine caught fire at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex in Rochester NY. There was no apparent damage to the building and WROC reports that no injuries were reported.

Zamboni Fire at Bill Gray's Regional Iceplex in Rochester
Zamboni Fire at Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex in Rochester (Photo: Russ Bitely, @russbites on Twitter)

The Olympia ice resurfacing machine caught fire just after it had begun resurfacing the ice in one of Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex’s four 200-by-85-foot ice sheets. The driver, Jordan Curtis, managed to keep the Olympia moving while it was on fire until it exited the ice through the service doors. At that point the fire was put out, presumably by fire extinguishers.

Russ Bitely who appears to have been in the building when the fire broke out also apparently captured video of the later stages of the Olympia fire.

From the appearance of the ice in the photo and the video, it appears that the Olympia began leaking hydraulic fluid on to the ice as soon as the driver put the conditioner down on to the ice.

According to machine specifications that RinkAtlas reviewed on the Zamboni.com website, a modern ice resurfacing machine is normally loaded with 16 gallons (60.6 liters) of hydraulic fluid. Many common hydraulic fluids are flammable, which probably explains the fire that broke out aboard this Olympia.

Here’s another angle on the fire, grabbed by Mary Prusak from the LiveBarn feed for Bill Gray’s Regional Iceplex. In this clip, you can see that the Olympia pulled on to the ice, lowered the conditioning unit amid a loud revving sound, began leaking hydraulic fluid on to the ice, and almost immediately burst into flames. Taking these two videos together, RinkAtlas estimates that the resurfacing machine driver drove about 350 feet with the Olympia in flames.

This article is an example of the news coverage about ice arenas and the hockey business in North America that you can find at RinkAtlas. For more RinkAtlas news, visit https://rinkatlas.com/blog.

Updates on the Story

On October 16, we learned that the ice resurfacing machine that caught fire was an Olympia, not a Zamboni-brand machine. You can see the branding of the resurfacing machine on the LiveBarn video clip posted by @maryprusak. But credit for that discovery actually goes to Marcia Greenwood of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle in her article Ice-resurfacing machine catches fire while cleaning Brighton rink; driver extinguishes blaze.

How Other Media is Covering This Story

New Single-Sheet Ice Rink in Reno Scheduled to Open in December

The Reno Gazette-Journal reported on Friday that construction on the first phase of a new single-sheet ice rink south of Reno Nevada should be completed in December. The rink will be named The Jennifer M. O’Neal Community Ice Arena, also known as Reno Ice.

Reno Ice Rink Site Plan
“Reno Ice is building a year-round ice rink in south Reno” (Jeff Frame, Frame Architecture Inc., via Reno Gazette-Journal).

According to the article, “Reno Ice will have private lessons, public ice skating sessions, hockey leagues, broomball, curling, trade shows, tournaments, performances and figure skating.”

Brad Richter, the construction superintendent on the project reportedly is a hockey player himself, having grown up in Waunakee, Wisconsin and played for the Madison Capitols of the USHL.

The arena is part of a larger South Valleys Regional Sports Complex, which includes mutiple baseball and softball fields.

By RinkAtlas’ count, this is only the ninth arena complex in Nevada, and that counts some major sports arenas that are normally inaccessible for amateur hockey and figure skating. Nevada is definitely under-rinked, considering its rapidly-growing population.

RinkAtlas Arena Directory Updates

Ice-Plex Closes, Major Local Arena Complex in Escondido California

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported Saturday on the closing of Ice-Plex Escondido, a two-Olympic-sheet arena complex between north of San Diego. According to the article:

“{Rumors} have swirled among the hockey and skating communities about possible backroom deals, greedy owners and unspoken scandals causing the closure. But the truth is more simple. The nine-acre project’s owner, Southwest Generation in Colorado, had been losing between $100,000 and $200,000 a year on the facility since 2016 due to outdated equipment, high maintenance costs and the need for $2 million in retrofitting and repairs.”

“During the spring and early summer months of this year, Southwest Gen met with six different ice rink and hockey organizations who were interested in leasing the facility. But none of them signed on the dotted line because they couldn’t find a way to operate the center profitably. Southwest Gen had offered potential lessees a free, five-year lease on the property in exchange for the tenant agreeing to cover the $2 million in needed repairs.” — Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune

The Ice-Plex was a Side-Business for a Power Generating Company

This is a great article about an indoor arena complex that might be unique in North America– both in the way it was built and how it operated. The owner, Southwest Generation, seems like it should be a bigger part of the energy infrastructure of Southern California than it apparently is.

This company built the Ice-Plex as a way to use the steam generated by its gas-fired power plant (known as The Goal Line Power Plant) at the same site. But Goal Line became a “stranded cost” in the politics of the evolution of California’s regulated utility markets. Along the way the Ice-Plex, which depends upon the power plant’s steam output to operate, became also became a white elephant.

Another great aspect of Pam Kragen’s reporting is that she talks to leaders in the hockey and figure-skating communities. Reporters so often fail to locate and talk to the people who are the biggest users of a closed facility, so we never hear how the closure impacts them.

The Ice-Plex was Over a Quarter of the San Diego County Indoor Ice Market

The Ice-Plex was the only skating facility in San Diego County with two full-size ice sheets. It’s one of only a few facilities in North America with two Olympic-sized sheets. And the permanent closure of Ice-Plex represents the loss of 28 percent of the available ice in San Diego County.

It’s really important that investors step up, buy this facility, and retrofit it, or build another arena complex in the San Diego area. Otherwise, hockey, figure skating, short-track, and broom ball are all likely to shrink.

RinkAtlas Arena Directory Updates

  • Ice-Plex Escondido: Name updated, number of rinks, size of rinks, opening date, closing date added. Arena marked closed.

 

Referee Attacked at Pittsburgh Ice Arena After Penalty Call

The Valley News Dispatch reported that a referee in a men’s league game at Pittsburgh Ice Center was physically attacked by a player on the ice. The referee, Mario de Leon, had just called a holding penalty when he was reportedly punched by Jeremy Gregory Gilbert. Gilbert is also alleged to have driven de Leon’s head into the ice after de Leon fell down.

Pittsburgh Ice Arena is a two-sheet arena complex in New Kensington, PA, 21 miles northeast of Downtown Pittsburgh. The arena also contains a fitness facility.

In a subsequent article Mario de Leon said that he officiates lacrosse and wrestling in addition to hockey, and that he has no intention of hanging up his skates as a result of this experience.