By Kim Wrona
7/18/14 – DeKalb, IL NIU Hockey is changing its location for the 2014-15 season. The Huskies’ new home rink is now the Leafs Ice Centre in West Dundee.
“Ultimately, the move [from Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva] allows us to grow our program on the ice and in the community,” said Division-2 Head Coach Chuck Rinaldo. “The players will have better locker room benefits and better ice times while the fans will have the same or better experience with the amenities at Leafs Ice Centre along with a continued growth of fan support from the local communities and the fans on campus.”
Leafs Ice Centre is not an unfamiliar rink to NIU Hockey. The program played out of the facility full time from 2007-2010 and also part time from 2010-2012.
“I feel it is a great partnership for both organizations.” said Leafs Ice Centre general manager Craig Welker. “NIU has a very good hockey program and the Leafs Centre is excited to be a part of it going forward. The Leafs Hockey Club and Ice Centre Internal Programs have been rapidly growing and bringing NIU into our facility will provide Leafs members an opportunity to watch local college hockey players compete at a high level.”
One of the major components of the move involves earlier ice time for the teams.
“Practices will be the same days as they always have traditionally been,” said NIU Hockey GM Ian Kalanges. “Times will be better. No longer 10:00 pm or later, [they] will be at around 9:30 pm consistently for both teams.”
“Consistent prime time game slots will help us grow our fan base and increase our game attendance, giving our young fans a chance to see more games,” Rinaldo said. “At Fox Valley Ice Arena, we were going to have to push back a lot of Friday start times to 9:00pm or later. That's fine for the college fan base, but it's extremely important to us that we are connected to the local communities and the youth hockey fans.”
The Huskies will also be more comfortable off the ice at Leafs Ice Centre.
“At the Leafs Ice Centre, we have a better locker room facility for our D2 team and the space to add a locker room for the D3 team starting for the 2015-16 season,” Rinaldo said. “It's very important that we have the space and ice time to grow our D3 team just as much as our D2 team.”
The NIU Hockey fans will also have a place to eat before and after games at Leafs Ice Centre like they did in Geneva.
“Leafs Ice Centre is adding a restaurant food and beverage service to accommodate our fans similar to what they have at Fox Valley Ice Arena, which keeps the same fan experience and amenities,” Rinaldo said.
The move to Leafs Ice Centre benefits both parties on and off the ice.
“It is great for the Ice Centre because NIU has a strong fan following,” Welker said. “Many nights they will pack the place, which creates a great intense game atmosphere.”
“The growth of our program has created more needs on and off the ice and with the limited space and ice time at Fox Valley Ice Arena we wouldn't be able to stay on pace with our growth plan,” Rinaldo said.
“We look forward to having NIU in our facility for the 2014-15 season and beyond,” Welker said.
Tryout dates and times, as well as game times, for the Huskies’ upcoming season will be released within the week.