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NARCE Notebook: Columbus Offers Ideal Setting

06/16/2014, 12:30pm MDT
By Paul Batterson - Special to USAHockey.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The North American Rink Conference and Exposition moved to Columbus this year after being held in Detroit in each of the past three years. This year’s event, which was held May 19-22, was the first of three in a row that will be held in the Ohio capital.

Nationwide Arena, where the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets play, is with walking distance of the Columbus Convention Center, where the conference was held. The proximity to the rink and a strong presence at the NARCE in the past made central Ohio a strong choice for the convention.

“We rotate the site selection around in the Midwest,” said Cory Portner, director of membership for the USA Hockey. “Columbus became a potential destination when we were looking at sites because we’ve gotten a lot of support from rink operators and employees from Ohio coming to the conference. We thought it was probably time to come into the Ohio area.”

Lucky Timing

The conference avoided a logistical headache when the Columbus Blue Jackets were eliminated by Pittsburgh in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Had Columbus beaten the Penguins and made a long run into the playoffs, the conference would have struggled to find ice rinks to conduct its clinics.

“We’d love to see them go deep into the playoffs, but we had ice rented over at their facility,” Portner said. “If they would’ve gone deep in the playoffs, we would’ve had to look for other rinks.”

Green on Ice

One of the classes added to the conference this year was on energy management. The seminar took a look into alternative solutions such as solar power and wind power to provide the energy needed to run a rink.

“Right now we’re big consumers of electricity and natural gas,” Portner said. “We’re trying to cool the surface of the ice while heating the rest of the rink to keep it comfortable. We’re in constant conflict, burning dollar bills while trying to manage both ends.

“So we’re constantly exploring new ways of building our rinks to make them more energy efficient by using natural resources and technologies.”

Notes

According to Portner, the NARCE event pulled in participants from nearly every state that has an ice rink facility as well as participants from Japan, Canada, Europe and Australia. … The expo had companies offering four different ice resurfacers, including the traditional Zamboni as well as the Olympia, Sport Ice and the Italian-manufactured Engo.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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USA Hockey: What was it like to be a part of the U22 and U18 Select Series’

Melissa Szkola: The experience was wonderful. It was fantastic. We’ve essentially got the two best teams in the world competing against each other, so the learning experience, working with the officials that we have, is always amazing. You leave here a better person, a better official; that’s what we’re here for. That’s what I look forward to the most at these big-time events: the level of hockey and what you get out of it as a whole.

USAH: How did you first get into officiating?

Szkola: It’s been nine years since I got my start. I was a competitive figure skater and my older brother played hockey, so I’ve always been around the game, but it was my husband who actually got me into the officiating side of it. When we started dating, he was a roller and ice hockey official. He asked me to come with one time and I said ‘okay.’ That’s how I got started. It’s something he and I have in common and he is my biggest supporter. I wouldn’t be here without him.

USAH: So nine years under your belt, how would you describe some of your past IIHF events?

Szkola: I’ve had a handful of experiences with international tournaments. Each one has brought a new set of skills to my plate. You learn a lot about yourself and you learn a lot from your supervisors from different countries as well. To get out and work with other female officials and learn from them and your supervisors is amazing.

Being in another country, where sometimes there aren’t people who even speak English, is a really unique experience as well. The communication that you learn to speak with non-English speaking officials really makes you appreciate what you have in common – hockey.

USAH: How did the Select Series compare to those events?

Szkola: The level of play, it’s definitely much higher at the Select Series than any of the championships that I’ve been to. I wouldn’t say that the intensity is much different, because at each level they are competing for their highest achievement. The intensity is the same, the importance is the same, but the level of play is definitely much better; it’s faster, it’s crisper. Your awareness just has to be that much higher.

USAH: Did calling a game with high-caliber players like those at the Select Series shake up any nerves?

Szkola: I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous before we got on the ice. I’ve watched Team USA and Team Canada compete before, so you know the level at which they intend to play. Being out there with it, you just know where the emotions can go sometimes. It was a little nerve-wracking before the start, but as soon as that puck drops, you have a job to do. USA Hockey does a fantastic job developing us; I feel like they wouldn’t put you out there if you weren’t ready. Once that puck drops, you’re kind of at home.

USAH: What’s next for your officiating future?

Szkola: The support that I have, not only from my hometown in Michigan, but also the support and development USA Hockey has given really sets you up for success if you want to take it in that direction. That is my goal. I do want to skate in the Olympics. Moving forward I am going to continue to improve upon each experience that I have, because you can always be better. Mistakes do get made, so you learn from those and improve yourself. 

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