Wadena Hockey rebuilds arena, program
Like many other buildings in Wadena, the Wadena Community Center was destroyed in the 2010 tornado. The Wadena Hockey Association, who used the center for hockey practices and games, scrambled to find a place for kids to skate. The first season after the tornado, skaters had the unique experience of playing outdoors. The hard work of many volunteers made this possible.
Through several long months of effort, the Wadena Hockey Association was able to begin work on rebuilding an arena in Wadena. After several delays, the rink had a roof over its head and a shell of a building to play indoors during the 2011-12 season.
In the summer before the 2012-13 season work was completed in the building. Heat and plumbing was finished, permanent locker rooms were built, and a welcoming lobby and concession area was added. After a devastating loss, the arena was completed bigger and better than before, just in time for the hockey season.
The tornado didn’t only affect the building; the numbers of players in the association declined dramatically after the tornado. The season following the tornado saw approximately 60 kids still skating for Wadena. Some families chose to take their children to other associations; some chose not to play at all.
Those who stayed worked hard on rebuilding both the arena and the program. Members sought donations for equipment. The association attended several parades and fairs during the summer to hand out registration fliers.
Without the support of local businesses and the community, the rebuilding effort might not have seen fruition. Several businesses, the City Council and the Wellness Center Fundraising Committee worked hard to help out the Association making rebuilding a reality. The Association was able to use local labor to rebuild the rink.
Any hockey parent knows how hockey families pull together in times of crisis. Hockey communities throughout Minnesota came to the aid of the Wadena Hockey Association by donating player equipment including jerseys, skates and helmets. Other donations for the rink were given as well.
The Wadena Hockey Association also revamped registration fees, fundraising obligations and work hours. Required work hours were done away with completely, with the exception of concession hours, which were dramatically reduced to make it easier on families. Fundraising was simplified as well. Instead of three to four different required fundraising campaigns, families are now only required to sell raffle tickets and can choose to do additional fundraising through pizza sales.
Perhaps the biggest change was that registration fees were simplified. Any family new to the Wadena Hockey Association gets free registration, excluding the fee required by USA Hockey. The fees for other levels of hockey were simplified as well and families with multiple players get a family discount in the form of a registration fee cap.
The result of these changes is that the Wadena Hockey Association is rebuilding their member numbers. This season, they re-introduced a fall league and hired a skating expert to run skating clinics. New hockey coaches have been hired and all teams are becoming more competitive. The skaters are coming back as well. As of the upcoming season, there are over 100 players registered so far, and registration is still open. The increase in members benefits the entire association. The more families that register, the burden is lessened for all families.
One area the Wadena Hockey Association hopes to address is girls’ hockey. The number of girls playing in Wadena has decreased each year. If the numbers keep falling, soon there will be no girls’ hockey in Wadena. The Association is looking into several options to attract more girls to hockey, including a girls’ night at the rink. They hosted a girls’ night at the end of last season and saw approximately 30 girls turn out to skate with some of the Wadena-Deer Creek-Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Blue Devils. The Association hopes to hold another girls’ night this season.
The Wadena Hockey Association is made up of families who love and support hockey. The public is encouraged to cheer on Wadena teams at the nice, new warm rink. Schedules can be found on the Wadena Hockey Association’s website. There are also plenty of open skate times available.
If a family is interested in registering a player, registration forms and schedules can be found online at www.wadenahockey.com.