ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – The St. Louis Blues are coming to the rescue of an Illinois youth hockey league who lost their home rink thanks to a most unnatural disaster. The collapse of an old mine beneath the building has sent the team packing.
It was early October when mine subsidence, as it’s called, forced the U.S. Ice Rink to be shuttered. State authorities declared it uninhabitable, at least for now.
The rink is home to the Southern Illinois IceHawks, a club made up of seventeen youth hockey teams. Suddenly those dozens of kids were without a hockey home.
“When it happened we were just stunned,” IceHawks president Pat McLeod said Wednesday night.
The league reached out to the area’s tight knit hockey community, and got a lot of help. Places like Kirkwood, Chesterfield, and others provided valuable ice time for practices and games, but the travel was proving tough.
“Sometimes when you have a 10 year old kid traveling over to Chesterfield for an 8:00 practice that sinks in” McLeod said.
But soon they would hear from the St. Louis Blues. The NHL club, which is dormant as a league work stoppage drones on, offered a solution that seemed too good to be true: make the Scottrade Center home for the IceHawks.
“We have so many supporters in St. Louis, and anything we can do is the least we can do,” Blues Community Relations Director Randy Girsch said.
Former Blues star and current broadcaster Kelly Chase is among those glad to see this happening. He still can’t get over the photograph of the crack that goes right down the middle of the Fairview Heights rink.
“I was just wondering how on Earth anybody would have allowed them to build the thing there,” he said.
He sees the move by the NHL club as, simply, the right thing to do.
“For a kid who loves the game it’s got to be a pretty empty feeling thinking you don’t have a place to play, so I’m really proud of what the Blues have done.”
And McLeod says there is sudden elation among the dozens of kids who play IceHawks hockey.
“Just completely and totally amazed. They can’t wait to be on the Blues ice. You hear them talking about something that has been a dream all their life. Really, we’ve gone like you say from the lowest low to the highest high.”
And Chase believes that high will get higher when they step onto NHL ice.
“There will be a lot of kids who will come in here and be pretty wide eyed,” he said.
The teams will begin practicing at the Scottrade next Wednesday, with their first games the following Saturday.
The deal is not contingent upon the NHL lockout continuing. Everything has been scheduled to fit, even if the Blues resume play.
FOX 2 attempted to contact managers of the U.S. Ice Sports Complex to find out more about the future of the building. No one returned our calls.