I've been to NEISMA Conferences in year's past. (North East Ice Skating Managers Association) I've gone as a member of UVM back in the early 2000's - 2013, and later the Chelmsford Forum, and Warrior Ice Arena. They had always been paid or sponsored in part to those places I worked. This one is on my dime and it may sound dumb but it means more to me.
This tale could go a lot of ways but to make a long-story short I was on track to get the 3rd and final course from the Ice Skating Institute while at the Chelmsford Forum. Not only was I removed from there before I could complete it but I couldn't afford to go to Las Vegas that year to complete it on my own. That was 2016. Fast-Forward to me seeing that the 3rd course I needed to become a Certified Arena Operator was being offered at Lake Placid at the NEISMA 2018 Spring Conference. Seeing as Warrior is sending me to Columbus next month for NARCE (this will warrant a separate blog in due time)... if I wanted to do this I was on my own financially. I did get support from them to be free to go and make no mistake I'm proud to be here as the lone representative from Warrior Ice Arena.
I will see tons of old faces from my years in the industry and most notably will no doubt be those instructing me in my class... folks from the old company I worked for at FMC while at the Chelmsford Forum.
I'm nervous because I know this leg of the training will be the most challenging piece for me. Its refrigeration based which remains one of the few holes in my game. Although I'm better equipped to be doing it now then I would have been in even 2016... especially in Las Vegas!
I'm excited because I'm proud to have risen to Operations Manager at the practice facility for what for many at this event would consider their favorite NHL team. A stunning turn of events really. There will be much chatting, most likely some late night drinking (I skipped the first night to do some work and write this), and even some on-ice action as I partake in the NEISMA Cup hockey game on Tuesday. I haven't played hockey since our staff game last fall... but hey it's a chance to get out on the iconic Lake Placid sheet of ice and believe in the miracle of me being affective. It should be fun.
I will no doubt be tired at the end of all this as classes start at 8:30a all week... I'm a late night guy who tried to get myself to sleep early but here I am at near 1:30a still up and not tired. Honestly I'm a dynamo of staying up late. I think I might be like a really stupid super hero who can just stay up forever.
It took 5 hours to drive here, 301 miles. Lake Placid is near nothing else. it was a super quiet almost eerie ride in as the dusk became night and eventually the winding mountain road opened to reveal one of the most well-known sleepy village towns in the world. The first noticeable thing in this light is the ski jump towers which you'd swear are FAR too close to the road and nearby lake to actually have ever been used. Soon after a swing through the town and you're near the Olympic Center Rink. The outdoor speed-skating oval is right out front (but no longer has ice for the season) right behind the Olympic Center is the hotel the conference is in and I'm staying at. Always worth the extra money to just stay at the place with the conference. You don't have to factor in travel to the morning routine. In about 6 hours I'll be glad I can roll downstairs without a coat or my keys.
The last time I was in Lake Placid was in probably 96 or 97 for the ECAC Final Four. Martin St. Louis and Tim Thomas were on the squad and we often followed them around to see games. I remember visiting shops in the town and watching the NCAA Tournament in our hotel room. The Catamounts didn't win the tourney but it was a ton of fun.
I look forward to reconnecting with the town in the next few days.
And that about wraps up my preview of the NEISMA Spring Conference... but now I'm swinging in to review mode. I wrote the upper part before the conference kicked off.
On Monday 7:45am came early but I wanted to shake the cobwebs and be ready. I knew I needed to bare down on this class unlike most other ones I've taken. So it was class from 8:30 to about noon and then a catered lunch. Back at it from 1p to 5:30p but we got out a little earlier. We had gotten fed a bunch of new information but I felt really good about what I was learning. I had taken a lot of notes and felt I was grasping the topic very well. I went to the room to change before the president's welcome mixer in the hotel lounge. Beer was free until the keg tapped so that was solid. I met up with Casey Murdough (from Essex, VT and the man I replaced the Chelmsford Forum) and my boss at Endicott, Jay Lilly. We decided to head down to a place called Wiseguys to grab some food and watch the Bruins vs. Maple Leafs game 6. It was fun to watch the B's lose but ultimately it wouldn't matter... anyway we left there and nothing was really happening back at the hotel lounge so we all sort of called it an early night.
Tuesday class didn't start until 10:00a so I slept in and woke up feeling about as rested and good as I've ever felt for a day at a conference. Class was short in the morning as the awards luncheon was at 12:30. Some awards were handed out to legends of the ice making industry including a Zamboni employee and even one of the biggest names in ice paint was entered to the NEISMA Hall of Fame. Sometimes it's amazing to me that these guys that are known world-wide know me... and that I can access them for advice and opinions if I need too. Afternoon class went til 4p and then from 4-7p was the trade show. I was informed at the end of class that tomorrow I'd have to take 2 tests to become a full-fledged CAO (Certified Arena Operator) I went up to the room and vegged for about an hour before going to the trade show. It doesn't take 3 hours to make the rounds.. I won nothing in the raffle at the end but did join the tour of the facility that took us through the very nostalgic arenas. The hockey game was slated for 8:30 so I went to grab my bag and headed back to the arena to get dressed. We used the same locker room that team USA used in 1980 for their infamous run to Gold. The room was left in the same condition as it was then so it was kind of neat. They usually break-up in to two teams. The rinks vs. the vendors. Since the vendors were short on players I was drafted to their squad. The game itself was a little one-sided. I felt like our team was going as hard as they could while some of the players on the other team were obviously holding back. I think the final was like 6-2 but it felt like a wider margin. Their goalie was shutting down all of our good chances which was a surprise so I was told. At some point someone through a fish on the ice, and lots of fun was had. I took a video interview on the bench on my Facebook and Instagram if you're interested. Then after the game I showered, had a beer in the parking lot with a few of the players and then eventually met Jay, Casey, and Adam (Manager of the Burlington, MA rink) at the Lake Placid Brewery. It was 2 for 1 night and also maybe models night? There were maybe 20 people at most in the bar at one time but there were like 7 or 8 amazing looking girls... I assume a model convention was also in town? Anyway after drinking some fine UBUs we headed back to Wiseguys to close it down. Then I walked back to the hotel very, very late.
Wednesday 8:00a came way too early. I won't lie I was hungover. I made my way down to class where were slated to mostly review until taking the test at 10:30a. I passed the first one which was the part 3 and then waited around to take the combined one with 3 other guys. We reviewed for a bit then I took that one as well. I know I passed that one. It was mostly short essay form so they have to grade them later. Then I went back up the hill, which was super steep BTW, and checked out and made the return journey to Boston. I got home and unpacked and passed out at about 8pm.
All in all it was a great conference. I got to meet Terry Piche from Ontario and talk Piche history. I talked with all of our regular vendors at the trade show while collecting swag (pens/pads/shirts/etc.). I caught up with people from past rinks, met new people, and got a chance to skate on the Lake Placid ice. And got the certification I had wanted to complete for so long. I was so busy I barely had time to explore Lake Placid but I didn't It was great to represent the Warrior Ice Arena and I'm looking even more forward to NARCE in a few weeks!