Hockey players have love for new ice rink

Noah Mathwig, left, dodges a block by Jacob Carmichael as Eric Walter skates in during practice at Grand Valley Skating Center.

Ben Smalta couldn’t wait to get back on the ice.

When Ice Skating Inc. was able to raise money to open the Grand Valley Skating Center, 1130 N. 3rd St., he was ready to come back to the sport he loves, hockey.

Smalta, who stepped away from the game last year, returned this week after the skating center opened with a sheet of ice at the old Hockey Stop location.

“It’s been great,” the 18-year-old Fruita Monument High School graduate said. “It means a lot to have ice.”

The rink is an asphalt base, but sand was added to level the surface. All the material was donated to Ice Skating Inc.

The skating center opened the past weekend with a Learn to Skate program that drew more than 40 children. There were two classes Saturday and again on Sunday.

“It’s unbelievable,” Ice Skating Inc. Director of Operations Curt Maki said. “We’ve been able to resurrect the Learn to Skate program.”

Maki said there is another Learn to Skate program scheduled after the first of the new year.

“We can develop in-house programs again for kids not wanting to play on a travel team,” Maki said. “We had a resurrection come with the adults.”

There are between 75 to 80 adults registered for the adult league with eight teams. Each team will play 28 games at the facility. League play begins next week.

The teams will play 4-on-4 instead of the custom 5-on-5 because the rink is a bit smaller than regulation size.

There are already five games scheduled between the adults and youth in-house programs this Sunday, Maki said.

The Grand Valley Youth Hockey Association, which has teams in five age categories, has begun using the facility for practices, but will play all games on the road.

That’s OK with Smalta as long as there is a play to practice in town again.

“Normally, I didn’t look forward to practice,” Smalta said. “Now, it’s just been great to be on ice again. It’s a lot of fun.”

Smalta didn’t play last year after Glacier Ice Arena closed because of a failing refrigeration system.


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