When you think of youth hockey in Duluth, you get cold nights, rosy cheeks and hot chocolate. This year is quite a bit different as above average temperatures this winter has led to some adjustments for youth hockey teams.
Many of the teams in the Duluth area have been having many issues with the warm weather, which has forced some cancelled practices and games.
Brad Christiansen, Head Coach of the Duluth Heights Squirt B team, said that his team has been fortunate enough to not miss any games due to the weather.
“We’ve only had to miss three practices, and during that warm week we practiced inside so we got a little lucky,” Christiansen said.
The rinks at the Portman complex haven’t been as fortunate, according to Ben Aronson. Aronson is a parent of one of the players on the Mite 1 team at the Portman rinks. His son is in his first year of hockey, and Aronson believes that the weather has affected his son’s development.
“I think he is developing and enjoying playing, but if he had his full ice time he would have developed more,” Aronson said.
According to Aronson, the Portman mites didn’t have any inside practices after the rinks were first flooded in the beginning of winter. Consequentially, the Portman team missed a few practices and even had a tournament cancelled because of the warmth.
The weather has been about seven degrees warmer than normal in February so far, as the current average is 33 degrees. The normal highs for February hover around 26 degrees, according to The Weather Channel. This change in temperature has made many people happy, but hockey players and coaches are left scratching their heads with what they will do next with their playing surfaces.
Anyone with their eyes on the rinks could tell that the ice was cracking or there was slush in the corners from where the most melting occurred, causing some problems for kids as they skated around during their Monday night practice.
“Normally we’ll have one or two days where the ice will get wrecked, but nothing like this year,” Christiansen said.
According to Christiansen, parents of players on each team work on the ice every night at Duluth Heights from 8 p.m. to about 10:30 p.m. to make sure it is in as good of condition as it can be for the practices and games.
He also thinks that if the warm temperatures become a trend, the youth hockey programs might have to make some bigger adjustments.
“I think it’s an anomaly to change anything now, but if this happens three or four years in a row, we might have to change something,” Christiansen said.
Aronson looked at it a little differently as he thinks there should be an alternative just in case.
“I think it would be great to have a contingency plan in case of these practices getting cancelled,” Aronson said. “It would guarantee the kids enough ice time to develop at a young age.”