When Eric Perrin took over as the director of hockey at the Daytona Ice Arena in February, he thought he might have a little grace period to get acclimated to the job.
However, just a couple weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and Perrin was making decisions he didn’t think he’d have to make.
The Daytona Ice Arena, in South Daytona, Florida, shut down on March 15. But that came with a silver lining for Perrin and his wife, Karen, who is the rink’s hockey administrator.
“It allowed us to really revamp the programs — youth hockey, adults and everything — for Karen to implement guideline procedures for the way that we wanted,” said Perrin, who retired last year after a 21-year professional hockey career. “Obviously, with USA Hockey, I have so many great friends that are part of it that are helping me out, guiding me through what I want to bring here, which is the best way to develop kids and the best way to offer a great place, a fun place to play hockey.”
The Daytona Ice Arena was closed for about eight weeks, opening its doors back up in mid-May.
Youth hockey players were the first ones to return to the ice, conducting small group clinics of about 10 skaters as well as private lessons. The sessions are only a two and a half hour window at night to ease back into it.
“Just to get the kids going a little bit,” Perrin said.
On June 2, Daytona Ice Arena got its adult hockey league going again. The teams were five games into the spring session when the rink had to shut down.
“The adult league players, they’ve been chomping at the bit,” Perrin said. “They’ve been like, ‘When are we starting? When are we starting? We’re ready. We’re ready.’ So, my wife, Karen, sent out a survey asking everyone and we got good feedback, so we decided to go for it. Sure enough, we had enough for teams and to keep it going where we left off.”
Popular public skating, which is offered nearly every day of the week, started back up on June 8.
“People were calling to see if they need to register, do they need to save a spot. At the beginning we said, ‘No. Just come’,” Perrin said. “But the numbers made sense every time. It was never too crowded or where it looked dangerous.”
Reopening with Several Guidelines
Perrin and the staff at Daytona Ice Arena made sure to open the rink slowly and take all of the necessary precautions along the way.
Locker rooms weren’t accessible in the early phases of reopening, but they are open now. Also, showering at the rink isn’t allowed.
“We put big X’s down on the floor and we asked them to come as dressed as possible, so they wouldn’t have to get all the way dressed here,” Perrin said. “We had no parents. We had no spectators at the beginning. No one in the building besides the young athletes or the adults in the league.”
There are about 10 hand-sanitizing dispensers located throughout the rink, and players are suggested to use them. Those entering the rink have been encouraged to wear face masks.
“We have our staff, which was very limited, but the ones that were here were disinfecting all the time, everywhere,” Perrin said. “Once the adults were done, all the benches, everything was disinfected — the doors, the handles.”
Anyone going into the rink is having their temperature checked at the front desk. People who register an escalated figure aren’t allowed inside.
There are also signs on the doors and walls with social distancing rules along with literature on COVID-19 and how players can stay safe.
When it first opened back up, Daytona Ice Arena, which has a large facility, was following state guidelines of operating at 25% capacity. Even after that figure was bumped up to 50%, rink officials agreed it was best to stay at 25% to stay safe.
“We’re still going to encourage people to be smart when they come to our building,” Perrin said.
Now that he’s been on the job for five months, Perrin is feeling quite comfortable. After his lengthy pro career, which included four seasons in the NHL and a Stanley Cup championship with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2003-04, Perrin’s extensive hockey background has been extremely helpful.
“This has all been kind of new to me since I retired last year,” Perrin said. “I’m getting more and more into it, and getting the hockey director job in February has been quite an experience and having to deal with all this on top of it.
“But to me, what was awesome was when we did reopen, the amount of kids that were excited to get back on the ice and be working with me and a couple of our coaches. It makes you feel really good to see that amount of passion there is down here for the game.”
Perrin is taking his daily rink duties day by day. He feels fortunate to be working at a great facility that has owners who put money into renovating the arena and who push the game in an unconventional hockey region.
“We hope we get back, we don’t want to say the new normal, we want to get back to the normal,” Perrin said. “So, we hope that’s sooner than later.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.