Divisive Ice

“You have one new alert on first touch.”

Oh no. As I unlock my phone, I discover a new change for hockey practice awaits me on our scheduling app. I mentally prepare myself to drastically alter my schedule for the upcoming week. I read: “Practice changed to 9:45 – 11:15 pm in Northfield on Monday, 7 – 8:30 am in Northfield on Tuesday, Fairbault practice 2 – 3:30 pm Wednesday and Thursday.” What does this mean for practice attendance this week? That the majority of our team will be there Monday night, those without 8 am labs will be there Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday will be nothing short of chaos. From finding van drivers over the age of 20 to take us to Faribault, to stuffing eight hockey bags into the trunk of a St. Olaf van all while completing classes before 2 pm, finding ice time is challenging to say the least. But necessary to be able to play the game we love.

During my first semester on the St. Olaf hockey team, I planned out my schedule before each week. Because of my chemistry lab I wouldn’t be able to make the afternoon practice on Mondays, like many of my teammates. After class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, if I grabbed a bag lunch and sprinted down to our temporary Skoglund locker room I could just squeeze myself and my hockey bag into the backseat of a van driven by one of my teammates in time to make it to practice. Because Northfield ice arena only has so much ice time it is extremely difficult to secure practice times. We take what we can get. This often results in low attendance at practice, altering lines and adjusting practice plans even on days before games, which is less than ideal when trying to mentally prepare for an upcoming series.

In addition, although the Northfield rink has a certain charm, it is simply an outdated facility. Several times this year the zamboni has broken down and players have manually shoveled the ice before practice. While instances like these certainly “build character,” they take away from valuable practice time, and low-quality ice poses severe challenges to players with lingering hip and knee injuries. A new facility would dramatically reduce these setbacks and allow our teams to practice at a higher level.

Obviously the sacrifices we make are worth the effort, but I can’t help but think about how convenient it would be to have a rink on campus. Head Women’s Hockey Coach John Bazzachini announced the campaign to us early in the season and we were given a preview of the promotional video; the rink was beautiful, complete with new locker rooms and bleachers and it would be right on campus. Getting the opportunity to play college hockey is in itself such a privilege, but the idea of being able to practice and play in our very own facility would be nothing short of a dream. An on-campus rink would give our schedules more flexibility, allow for better attendance at practices and drastically increase the opportunities for fellow Oles to support both the men’s and women’s hockey teams. The new rink would be a facility all students could enjoy, whether that be through learning to skate, playing open hockey or simply coming to cheer on a friend at a game.

As we come closer and closer to reaching our fundraising goal, I have taken some time to reflect on how far we’ve come as a team. Being a part of St. Olaf Women’s hockey is more than just a game for me and my teammates. It can be daunting to balance the hours of workouts, on-ice sessions, four classes, finding time to get a meal at Stav Hall and get a decent night’s sleep, but we do it with a smile on our faces because at the end of the day, we love it. Our love for the sport and our drive to win was evident this season as we grew as players and people. An on-campus ice rink would only further this growth and continue the inspiring legacy of St. Olaf hockey.

Our current locker room in Porter Hall has a sign above one of the doors. It reads, “Many great Oles have gone before you. Make them proud today.” I promise as a St. Olaf women’s hockey player to do everything I can to live up to these words, hopefully in the first ever on-campus rink. #BringIceHome.

Maddie Etienne ’20 (etienn1@stolaf.edu) is from St. Louis Park, Minn. Her major is undecided.

The new St. Olaf ice rink will be incredible for the hockey teams as well as the students who will have access to ice time year round. Not only does this mean easy access to free skating, but it could also entail more intramural broomball. I’m glad the administration is investing in an ice rink, but I’d also like to see a plan for the teams and athletes who will be displaced by this construction project.

The new ice rink will be built at the site of the current Skoglund field house. For those not familiar with the facility, the Skoglund field house is home to indoor tennis, winter football practice, soccer practice, intramural futsal, ESAC courses, club sports practices and more. Though it isn’t as large as Tostrud, or nearly as nice, the field house is a highly valued space. Without it, every varsity sport, club team and intramural program, as well as recreational athletics, will only have the Tostrud field house and the Skoglund gym to share.

The St. Olaf 2016 Framework Plan includes a guideline for a 30 percent increase in the athletic and recreational space than is currently available. The plan also includes several maps showing potential spaces for new facilities and spaces across campus. It is unclear whether the current plan to build the rink in Skoglund will in fact expand space available according to the Framework Plan’s metrics, or stay the same. What is clear, however, is that while ice time will increase, field sports will be competing for less space.

At present, every weeknight in Tostrud is already busy with a variety of sports. As the captain of one of the women’s ultimate frisbee club teams, I use the field house spaces three times a week with my team. We often share the space with intramurals and other clubs, while students use the track and sides of the field house for recreational exercises and rowing practice. On the weekends I often see kids and their parents also using these highly sought after spaces. Considering how little time and space is already afforded to non-varsity teams, with the field house gone and the rink in its place, something will have to give.

I was recently told by facility staff that my team might only be able to practice once a week, as opposed to three times. For a team who is typically competitive in the spring season, this sort of practice schedule isn’t feasible. Our players spend their own money purchasing equipment and playing at tournaments, and that investment will be meaningless if we are unable to play well. This diminishes our ability to be serious about competing.

One option is to provide indoor field space for St. Olaf teams to use in the Dundas Dome. However, that space needs to be rented, which means it is impossible for club teams and most recreational users to do so unless the school provided some sort of compensation. Furthermore, if St. Olaf agreed to rent space at the Dome, transportation would become another headache as monetary and time commitments would have to increase. Granted, this is just one of the problems the hockey teams are dealing with now, which is an understandable reason for bringing them to campus with a new ice rink.

So maybe it’s time to start planning another long-term indoor field space on campus. Even if that is a few years out, a plan needs to be developed for the interim starting when construction begins on the rink. Otherwise, reserving space will be a bloodbath. Tensions will run high when students are tripping over one another to work out or practice. Lack of space may be a death sentence for all but the most serious club sports. It would also jeopardize students’ freedom to shoot hoops when they want to unwind. We’ll just have to wait for fair weather to go outside. How did global warming become our ally?

Mary McManis ’17 (mcmanis@stolaf.edu) is from Sunnyvale, Calif. She majors in English.

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