Planning underway to host NHL teams in September

Published Jun 20, 2018 at 4:00pm

CLINTON — Clinton Arena is gearing up to host the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres National Hockey League teams as part of the prize for winning the 2018 Kraft Hockeyville USA title back in April.

According to an announcement about the pre-season game, Town of Kirkland Parks and Recreation Director Michael Orsino is working with the NHL and Kraft Heinz to smooth out the details for the event, which includes how many tickets will be available for random drawing to the public. The arena will host the game Tuesday, Sept. 25.

After weeks of rallying and online voting, Clinton rallied together to prove why they are the most spirited hockey community in America on April 14, according to The Kraft Hockeyville USA contest, in partnership with the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association, awarded Clinton Arena an opportunity to host an NHL preseason game and $150,000 in rink upgrades.

Clinton Arena is a staple of the local hockey community. After suffering a fire in 1949 and rebuilding from scratch six years later, the beloved gem has served generations of young hockey players for nearly 70 years. Cementing its history, Clinton Arena was listed on the National Historic Register in 2010. While the venue still has many of its original fixtures intact today, the prize money from Kraft Hockeyville USA will go toward improvements to a number of features, including the arena’s roof, locker room and seating, the announcement said.

“After an exciting face-off between our top four contenders, we’re thrilled to award Clinton the title of ‘Kraft Hockeyville USA 2018,’” said Michelle St. Jacques, head of brand marketing and R&D, according to “Clinton brought to life the essence of this program — both on and off the rink — and showed inspiring passion to rally their community. We’re excited to celebrate this win with them later this year.”

Orsino said there was some question from NHL officials on whether the actual pre-season game would be held at the arena or nearby at the Adirondack Bank Center (Utica Memorial Auditorium) or at Colgate University’s Class of 1965 Arena. The rink is smaller than the NHL’s 200-foot by 85-foot regulation size, but Hockeyville officials who visited the Arena in April stated it shouldn’t be an issue, Orsino said. Hockeyville’s first plan was to host team practices at the arena, he said.

However, Clinton Arena is in the process of installing new glass, replacing the current 3-foot glass with regulation 6 1/2 foot glass, eliminating the side netting, Orsino said. Renovations have been made to the locker rooms, which was part of the spending plan for the $150,000 prize money.