— Telegram file photo
The St. John’s IceCaps did not practice at Mile One Centre last week, and as the team prepares to close out its home portion of the 2012-13 American Hockey League season with four games this week, the IceCaps have no intentions of booking any practice time at their downtown home.
So what gives, Keith McCambridge?
“If you’re asking me where they’re being staged,” the IceCaps’ coach said of the team’s workouts which, by the way, are at Twin Rinks and Torbay’s Jack Byrne Arena, “there’s nothing to comment on.”
So why is your team not working out at Mile One?
“I like the pace, I like the execution, I like the speed that we practice with on the road, and I feel we have that at Twin Rinks and Jack Byrne Arena.”
Either McCambridge is the only coach in the history of hockey who prefers to practice away from his home rink, or the IceCaps’ mentor isn’t spilling the beans with what’s going on at Mile One.
Take this one to the bank: it’s the latter.
Ice conditions at Mile One have been a concern with the IceCaps and, by extension, the Winnipeg Jets dating back to last season, and those concerns came to a head last week when McCambridge ordered all workouts to be moved elsewhere, in this case Twin Rinks and Jack Byrne.
Not that anybody is saying anything for the record, but the problem has nothing to do with available ice time. Rather, it’s the quality of the ice for the morning skates.
It is, in a word, awful.
“You can’t pass the puck with a shovel,” one IceCap complained of the slushy surface.
Last year, the Jets brought in Dan Craig, the NHL’s ice guru, for a weekend to check out the Mile One surface and work with the arena’s ice crew.
A good sheet of ice, Craig said at the time, is hard and fast, but not to the point where it’s brittle.
And hard and fast for morning practice it’s not, whisper some players.
Some Mile One insiders go so far as to suggest the ice temperature is bumped up five or six degrees to accommodate seniors skating in the afternoon, though that would seem to be a ridiculous scenario, bordering on the bizarre given the impact its having on its primary tenant and essential revenue source.
If temperatures are indeed balmy for general skating, they’re positively frigid on game nights. Saturday night, in the upper reaches of Mile One, it was so cold one could hang meat. An Ottawa Senators scout, for example, watched the IceCaps and Toronto Marlies decked out in coat and gloves.
So maybe now we know why Mile One and City Hall is dinging everyone and anyone working the AHL games — including IceCaps staff, off-ice officials and game operations crew — with a parking fee: they need the dough to pay the heat bill that keeps skaters happy.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org