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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Commentary: Lack of practice taking toll on Icecats

Without the Tucson Convention Center, hockey wouldn’t exist in Tucson.

With no other ice rink in town, the 6,000-seat, multipurpose arena is the home of the UA Icecats and has been for decades.

But with the Tucson city budget cuts and a constant search for any type of revenue, practice time is at a premium.

Even games are being cut, and it’s creating helpless frustration among the players.

“”That’s one of those things that’s out of my hands,”” said freshman forward and leading goal-scorer Brian Slugocki. “”It’s so frustrating, but we just have to deal with it.””

The Icecats have already had three games cancelled this season due to “”scheduling conflicts”” at the fault of the TCC. But with the arena underwater financially, that conflict sounds more like “”what will make us more money, the Icecats or ‘Disney on Ice’?””

University of Nevada, Las Vegas was scheduled to come to town for a two-game series. That series was cut down to one game. The UNLV game was replaced with a Mickey Mouse show that didn’t require ice.

Michigan State was supposed to make the trip to Arizona in mid-February, but the Spartans will no longer be coming to town. The Michigan State time slot has been filled by the theatrical performance, “”Walking with Dinosaurs.””

For the Icecat seniors, three of their final home games in Arizona club hockey uniforms were removed. As for the games they can play, it is nearly impossible to compete when you can’t practice.

The Icecats’ last practice was Jan. 20, and because of the annual Gem and Mineral Show — a huge moneymaker for the city — they will have to play their remaining six games without setting foot on the ice beforehand.

With the final series of the season coming against ASU on Feb. 26 and 27, the Icecats will go the final month and seven days without any ice time.

Hockey is a sport in which a player’s skills need to be sharp. The cardio can be there, but if the stick handling is shaky and the timing is off, the end result won’t be pretty. Not to mention the Icecats have 15 freshmen still not fully adjusted to the college game or suiting up on a regular basis. How can you expect to win games with an almost entirely new team and no practice?

“”We have a lot of young guys that need consistent ice time to be productive and to get a decent unit going,”” said associate coach Dave Dougall. “”It makes it tough for the guys. It’s pretty hard to get your timing.””

It is difficult to complain because the TCC brings a professional-sized arena to a town that would otherwise have no hockey. Players get their own trading cards and sign autographs after games, but all of that isn’t nearly as meaningful if you aren’t winning or even practicing.

There used to be another rink in town where the team would go practice in times like this. That has been gone for years and, with the city’s current financial state, it is highly unlikely another rink will be built anytime soon.

“”With the budgets the way they are, I can’t see somebody taking a risk,”” Dougall said of the city building a new rink. “”They didn’t do it before, why are they going to do it now?””

With six games remaining, the Icecats are in danger of finishing the season under .500. The losing season would be only the second in the program’s 30-year history. If they win five of their last six games, they will finish 15-15.

But with four of their games on the road — one of which requires a bus trip to Colorado — and two of their games against No. 8 ASU, all without any practice time, the odds are certainly stacked against them.

Sure, the TCC has a terrific atmosphere that has carried Icecat hockey for decades, but ice availability is steadily decreasing year in and year out. And all of the perks of the TCC are starting to be outweighed by the negatives.

— Mike Schmitz is a pre-business sophomore. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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