CLINTON — While some of the fine details remain a secret, Town of Kirkland and Clinton Arena officials have been hard at work this summer preparing for the anticipated National Hockey League pre-season game featuring the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
The arena won the chance to host the game through the Kraft Hockeyville contest back in April. Also part of the prize was about $150,000 in renovations.
Last week, town Department of Parks and Recreation Superintendent Michael Orsino said crews were putting the finishing touches on new, taller glass around the rink, one of the required details by NHL officials to make the arena pro-hockey ready.
“We’ve had a lot of upgrades here. We’ve had a pretty heavy workload,” said Orsino. “There were certain things we had to do, like the taller glass, new netting, and even some plumbing work they (the NHL) has requested us to do, and we’ve been working on that to get it done.”
He said the arena was just about finished with all its upgrades.
“We’re headed in a really good direction. By the middle next week, we’ll be done and ready as far as what they requested from us,” Orsino said Thursday. “We’re going to fire up the new refrigeration system today or tomorrow and get the ice ready. We’re also getting some logos we’ll need to put on the ice, like one for Kraft Hockeyville, I believe four will be NHL (ones) and I imagine one for the Sabres and the other for Columbus.”
All the preparation work made it seem like time flew by this spring and summer, and Orsino said he can’t believe the actual game is about three weeks away.
Asked if he realized the big day was near, where the Village of Clinton would be the host of NHL hockey, “I haven’t had time to think about it,” he said. “They give you a list, and you do it. There’s been great communication with the NHL and good people to work with. They realize that something like this is what produces their players eventually.”
Orsino said, “It’s hard to imagine we were the first of about 200 arenas” in the Hockeyville contest. “That speaks volumes for the Mohawk Valley. Back in the day, when you didn’t have arenas in New Hartford or Whitesboro, this is where it all happened. And those are the grassroots that helped us win this award. Rome and Clinton were even rivals back in the day. Utica Comets President Rob Esche has even helped us out and is sending a crew up to give us a hand.”
A schedule of events surrounding the Hockeyville game is expected to be released in the next week or so, the parks director said. Town of Kirkland Administrative Assistant Patty Maxam, who is on the planning committee, said first the schedule of festivities must receive final approval from the NHL and it will be up to the league to release that information. Until then, she is sworn to secrecy.
“I had to sign a waiver to promise not to say anything,” Maxam said. “The NHL hasn’t released anything, so we can’t.”
Even ticket sales have not yet been decided. NBC was in town last week working on a format, Orsino said.
“They eliminated some seating because of camera placement, and then they said they would let us know” how many tickets would be available, he said. “Tickets will probably be based on a lottery. Somewhere in the sort of 60 percent will go to Clinton residents via zip code, and there’s four in the town; 20 percent will go to Oneida County residents so maybe the immediate surrounding area; then the outlining areas, like Boonville. That is my guess.”
The Sabres versus Blue Jackets game will be televised on NBCSN, which is Channel 38 on Spectrum cable.
When all is said and done, Orsino said the organization and preparation that went into hosting the NHL has been quite the learning experience.
“It opened my eyes to some little things in and around the arena that when you run it day-to-day, there’s things you don’t give much thought to,” he said. “Like things in the locker rooms. The NHL wanted some things done around the showers. And of course, one of the biggest issues was the height of the tempered glass, which has gone from 3 feet to 78 inches. A lot of good is coming out of this.”
As for the arena’s roof replacement, Orsino said patches are in place and arena and town officials are comfortable going with that to get the building through the year.
“We’re still in the process of getting bids and nothing has been awarded yet,” he said.
Meanwhile, as most village and town residents are focused on the upcoming game, there is a piece of big news — Clinton Arena is being featured on the big screen. Last year movie crews were at the arena filming scenes for the movie, “The Mountain,” directed by Rick Alverson, starring Jeff Goldblum, Tye Sheridan, Denis Lavant, Hannah Gross and Udo Kier. “The Mountain” is the story of a young man who, after losing his mother, goes to work with a doctor specializing in lobotomies and therapies.
“They filmed the movie, ‘The Mountain,’ here that’s to be released in California next week,” Orsino said. “That was a neat experience too. It’s supposedly based on a true story. I didn’t follow the plot because I was too busy getting things ready for it. It was the whole lights, camera, action and quiet on the set thing, so it was kind of neat to be part of. They filmed here for three days, but I’m not sure how much of the arena will be in the film.”