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Sacrilege In The State Of Hockey

The closing of an indoor ice arena in Saint Paul has been stopped. Now, the building will be converted for indoor tennis. Which is a worse sign for Minnesota hockey?

An advertisement for the Minnesota Moose, who moved in when the Stars left. They are now the Manitoba Moose, and are the AHL affiliate for the Canucks.
An advertisement for the Minnesota Moose, who moved in when the Stars left. They are now the Manitoba Moose, and are the AHL affiliate for the Canucks.

There are few things in Minnesota that can make a professional hockey fan sad. The ending of the Stanley Cup Finals, the inevitable exit of the Wild from playoff contention, the All-Star Game, and of course, Gary Bettman. However, none of these topics come close to deserving the label of being sacrilegious. Well, OK, Bettman does, but that's not the point here.

Events transpire, generally under the radar, taking place over months or years to make something sacrilegious. Norm Green slowly building his case to move the North Stars to Dallas is a prime example. Over the course of multiple years, he bilked people for millions and then demanded more money, more fans, and when he did not get it, he moved the team to the deep south. Sacrilege.

Right now another set of events is unfolding that if allowed to continue unabated, will be equal to, if not more disappointing than, the Stars packing up. From yesterday's Star Tribune, Ramsey County is was set to vote on a proposal to remove the ice sheets and ice making equipment from Biff Adams arena and convert it for indoor tennis.

Let that wash over you for a minute. Tennis. They are converting an ice arena into tennis courts.

The county is not taking the action because they hate the game of hockey. Indeed, this looks to be more of a saving grace at least on the cover.

A few months ago, county commissioners discussed the status of the county's ice arenas and the possibility of closing one or more because of new suburban rinks and decreasing demand for the ice.

Rather than closing the arena, as happened in Fridley with Columbia Arena (home of the original Mighty Ducks), the county was offered a viable solution from a group that says it has interest in the courts once they are in place.

St. Paul Urban Tennis started in 1991 and has served more than 2,000 children over the past few years. The program operates at more than 40 sites around St. Paul. In addition to teaching tennis to children from all backgrounds, the program teaches life skills such as manners, reading and healthful eating. Miller said an indoor facility is needed to expand its offerings throughout the year.

The group has been operating for almost 20 years, is obviously successful, and if they think they can make this site work, they likely can. Which is a very good thing for the neighborhood, for the kids, and for the county. It is a terrible thing for hockey.

If anyone out there has watched the documentary Pond Hockey, they know that the pros in the movie lament the fact that kids no longer want to skate outside, that the skills learned on that old fashioned, chopped up, rough sheet of ice are unteachable. I happen to agree. At the same time, if there are kids who want to skate but only want to do so inside, there needs to be enough ice for them to do so.

You see, the author of this post grew up in a world, not so long ago, in which the Schawn's Super Rink did not exist. There was an outdoor sheet of ice at Fogerty Arena in Blaine (rather than two indoor sheets), "The Oval" in Roseville was not even a concept and playing at Columbia Arena was a treat, because it meant we didn't have to be outside for that game.

Never underestimate just how difficult is is to play organized ice hockey when it is 30 degrees below zero and the participants are 8 years old.

Thus, despite the fact that demand for the use of the ice has diminished to the point where the building was about to be closed, it is difficult to fathom the conversion from ice hockey to tennis. A building intended to bring people inside, out of the bitter cold and the scorching heat to watch and play hockey will now be used for tennis. Tennis, people.

Sacrilege.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.