hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

July 18, 2013

City right to enlist parents, coachesto improve rink

The Haverhill Gazette

---- — If you’ve ever had a child on a hockey team or figure skating group, you’ve likely adopted a rink or two as second homes.

From early morning practices to games and competitions, you’ve spent countless hours there.

You might kill time during practices sipping coffee and walking the building, getting a good look at the boards and plexiglass that surround the ice surface, the quality of the ice, the condition of rest rooms.

In short, many parents of “rink rats’’ get to know every square inch of the rink.

That’s why they and coaches are qualified to report on what improvements and maintenance Haverhill’s ice rink needs.

And that’s why city leaders are making a good decision as they prepare to create a committee of parents and coaches to collect such information and recommend rink improvements. (See story, Page 1.)

The 40-plus-year-old rink is located behind Haverhill High School and has long been a mecca for youth hockey and high school players, as well as children and adults involved in figure skating organizations.

The rink is one of several built by the state in the early 1970s, when Bobby Orr and the Bruins were winning Stanley Cups and kids across New England were bitten by the hockey bug. Everyone wanted to play, it seemed, and the state responded. But with the rinks came the responsibility of maintenance — everything from keeping up the ice quality to making sure the rest rooms and locker rooms don’t fall into disrepair.

Haverhill leases the rink from the state and, according to the agreement, must spend significant money on the complex to make sure it is in good condition as the next generation of hockey players and figure skaters take to the ice.

Parents and coaches have led the charge to bring forward complaints about deterioration at the rink and improvements that are needed if it is to operate properly.

Now they will get an official forum, with Mayor James Fiorentini poised to name parents and coaches to the advisory committee. The City Council will also weigh in on the plan.

We hope it moves forward quickly and that city leaders take the committee’s recommendations seriously.

Haverhill is lucky to have the rink. The city is also fortunate to have adults whose have invested much of their lives there.

These built-in watchdogs can make sure the rink is alive and well for another 40 years.