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Frozen Fairgrounds hockey festival coming to San Diego in December

 

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LogoWhen you think of San Diego, the first thought that comes to mind isn’t usually hockey.

After all, with temperatures hovering around 70 degrees year-round, finding a frozen pond with kids playing pickup games in the winter is out of the question, and rinks aren’t nearly as plentiful as they are in other parts of the country.

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For 17 days in December, however, the San Diego suburb of Del Mar will be transformed into hockey central when the Frozen Fairgrounds at Del Mar takes over the seaside city.

From December 15-31, the outdoor arena at the Del Mar Fairgrounds – a 4,000-seat open-air arena with a covered roof that’s used during other parts of the year for everything from minor-league soccer to horse shows and CrossFit competitions – will host public skating, youth hockey games and an outdoor practice for the local American Hockey League (AHL) team.

“You’re going to get that outdoor feel without having to worry about the potential for rain or for the sun to be beating down on the ice all day,” said Barry Sherer, president of International Hockey Events. “We’re pretty excited – the response has been overwhelming.”

International Hockey Events, in conjunction with Rich Cubin and Golden State Ice Sports, will build a regulation-size NHL rink in the arena, as well as a 120-foot by 60-foot community rink that will be used for public skating and Mite play.

From Dec. 15-17, Frozen Fairgrounds will drop the puck for the Heroes Cup adult tournament, which will include multiple divisions to accommodate a variety of skill levels from an Open division down to the Novice division and multiple options in between.

There will be an ACHA college game on the night of Dec. 17 featuring San Diego State against Long Beach State, and on the morning of Dec. 18 from 10-11:45 a.m., the AHL’s San Diego Gulls will host the first outdoor practice session in their history. The session will be open and free for the public to attend, and the immensely popular local team should be a big draw – they’ll also participate in a public skate on both sheets of ice on Dec. 20.

“We’re making that first weekend military and first-responder appreciation weekend,” Sherer said. “That’s really important to us, and we know how big a role the military plays in the San Diego area and how important first responders are everywhere.

“The Gulls are a key partner in all of this. They’ll have a presence during the entire event.”

From Dec. 21-23, youth divisions, including high school varsity, high school junior varsity, 8U A and 8U B, will be featured. After a break for Christmas Eve and Christmas, Dec. 26-28 will be open for teams at the 10U B, 10U BB, 14U A and 8U B levels. The final three days, Dec. 29-31, will see teams on the ice at the following levels: 12U A, 12U AA, 12U BB, 16U AA and 8U A.

Parents and coaches can find information and can register for the USA Hockey-sanctioned tournaments at www.InternationalHockeyEvents.com.

International Hockey Events has organized youth and adult tournaments for more than 20 years.

Last December, the company put on its first outdoor event in Bakersfield (pictured) and with youth games, adult contests and an AHL game between the Edmonton Oilers affiliate Condors and L.A. Kings affiliate Ontario Reign on its final night, it was a smashing success. The idea is to move the event to a new location each year, giving hockey players and fans all over the country the chance to participate in something totally unique.

“There will be public skating on the community rink throughout most of the event, and there will be several days and evenings when both sheets of ice will be open for skating,” Sherer said. “This is the first time a NHL-size outdoor rink has been built in San Diego County, so I think people will be pretty excited about it.”

— Greg Ball

(Nov. 28, 2017)