Ice rink may attract big name hockey players |

Ice rink may attract big name hockey players

Build it, and they will come.

Like the fictional story “Field of Dreams,” and the corny ball field in rural Iowa that attracted members of the “Black Sox,” South Lake Tahoe’s proposed ice rink has the power to entice some of hockey’s biggest names to town.

If Measure S passes on Sept. 19, clearing the way for a 38,000 square foot ice rink to be built next to the city of South Lake Tahoe Recreation Center, past hockey stars such as Pierre Larouche, Mike Eruzione and Dan Quinn are receptive to conducting local hockey clinics.

“Guys want to come to town. If it’s done right, it could become the No. 1 destination ice rink in the country,” said Mark Heidt, a local hockey enthusiast who is still distraught over the failed attempt of an ice rink several years back.

Heidt isn’t blowing smoke.

“How bad would it be to get the kids on the ice and keep them out of trouble?” said three-time NHL All-Star Larouche during the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship earlier this summer. “I sure hope they vote yes because it’s helping the young kids and there’s also older people who like to skate.

“Personally, if they do it, I’ll come over here and do a little clinic.”

Added former Penguins center Quinn, “I love supporting it anytime anybody’s in it for hockey.”

For a city that cries out for more winter-time activities for its youths and adults, the $3.8 million ice rink appears to be a nice fit – especially if the projected 5:30 a.m. to midnight operating hours are legit.

We’ve already seen what Little League, AYSO and Pop Warner do for our children and what adult softball, basketball and volleyball do for the adults in the community. Throw in hockey, and some residents may give up watching NHL Tonight on ESPN. Surely a structured and demanding sport like hockey can only add more discipline to our youngsters’ lives and enable some adults to recapture their youth.

Heidt and some of his buddies are so passionate about hockey that they have traveled as far away as Squaw Valley and Sparks to compete in organized leagues. With a new rink, those leagues would only be a few minutes away.

“We came so close last time. I would have given my right leg to get it done the last time,” Heidt said.

Imagine some of the other possibilities. Perhaps the San Jose Sharks will hold their preseason training camp in South Lake Tahoe or maybe the “Great One” Wayne Gretzky will hold a youth hockey camp here so he can get in a few rounds of golf at Edgewood Tahoe.

“It’s a great idea because San Jose is so close,” said Quinn, referring to the fact that a home game for the Sharks requires a four-drive from South Lake Tahoe. “A lot of winter sports are here, so you’d think an arena would fit in.”

Hockey not only made Quinn and Mario Lemieux, former teammates with the Pittsburgh Penguins, millions of dollars but gave them the structure and values essential to succeed in life.

“Hockey was very important growing up in Canada. I think it’s great for the kids to go on the ice and learn,” Lemieux said. “It was a little bit different because we had several rinks to go to unlike in the States. But it’s getting better in the last 10 years. A lot more rinks are popping up everywhere.”

Quinn and his pals in London, Ontario, didn’t wait for the rinks to open. They played pickup hockey on their frozen backyards and road hockey on streets and driveways during the summer.

“The skating and the whole camaraderie of hockey for kids and learning to be part of a team, it a good way to mature,” Quinn said.

Larouche agrees.

“Hockey has been everything to me. The town should build a rink,” Larouche said. “The people should do it because it’s good for the young people, because it gives them a chance to be part of a team, to be in shape, to learn that it’s more than one person that makes a team go, to respect other people and follow authority.”

Another competitive outlet in South Lake Tahoe, especially one that is identified with a mountain community, can only convince tourists that South Lake Tahoe is not only a nice place to visit but a good one to settle in, too.

Who knows, maybe enough kids will become enamored with hockey and figure skating to lighten the load on the soccer and baseball fields.

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