ST. LOUIS - When news spread that damage to the U.S. Ice Sports Complex in Fairview Heights would leave the Southern Illinois IceHawks without a home for the foreseeable future, the Blues knew they had to do something to help.
“We were talking about it, and we thought maybe we could open up our building (to them). One thing led to another, and here we are,” said Blues’ COO Bruce Affleck. “It’s the right thing to do.”
After the recent Justin Bieber, Madonna and Paul McCartney concerts, the Blues began building the ice surface at Scottrade Center. Because mine subsidence caused structural concerns at their hometown rink, the IceHawks began holding practices at the 19,150-seat arena on Wednesday. Regular season games are set to begin Saturday.
“The Southern Illinois IceHawks are tremendously grateful to the St. Louis Blues for allowing the IceHawks to continue our youth hockey season at the Scottrade Center,” IceHawks President Pat McLeod said in a statement. “To play in the home of such a storied and successful NHL franchise like the St. Louis Blues is something many of our young players only dream about. The Blues continue to demonstrate a strong commitment to youth hockey, the development of the game at all levels and to the St. Louis community.”
The IceHawks will rent approximately 350 hours of ice time at Scottrade Center, spread between 4:30 to 11 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends. They expect to remain there throughout the youth hockey season, which runs through March. When Blues hockey resumes, they will rearrange their practice and game schedule to accommodate professional hockey.
The IceHawks don’t know when or even if the U.S. Ice Sports Complex will re-open. According to McLeod, the building is being monitored by the Department of Natural Resources. After extensive evaluation, the department will decide if the building is stable enough to re-open.
The IceHawks have been holding practices at various rinks throughout the St. Louis area since the damage occured on Oct. 9. McLeod said all the rinks and organizations have been helpful, but Scottrade Center gives his youth hockey organization a more central location they can call home.
“We’re extremely grateful,” McLeod told stlouisblues.com. “Our members are all Blues supporters. We go to the games and we’re strong fans of the Blues. This has been an amazing outreach. It's something they didn’t have to do, but that they've stepped up to do.”
IceHawks games and practices at Scottrade Center will be open to the public. Players, friends and family can enter using the security entrance on the north side of the building (15th and Walnut). In addition, a few concession stands will be open to guests looking to purchase food and beverages.
The Blues will also be holding a welcome party for the Fairview Heights community on Friday from 7 to 9 p.m. Players and parents are invited to skate, take pictures with Louie and hear welcome remarks from Blues’ personnel.
“Fairview Heights is very grateful, obviously,” Affleck said. “Having played the game myself, it’s a great game to play. We didn’t want to see kids not have an opportunity to play hockey.”
Added McLeod: “The Blues have shown their character. They’ve done something that will be talked about at our organization for a decade to come.”