Odenton rink enjoys new ice age

Other teams, activities filling void left by exit of Washington Caps

November 14, 2007|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Special to The Sun

The Washington Capitals were a big part of the Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton from the time it opened in the early 1990s, using it as a practice and training facility until they moved out last year.

Even though the Capitals have been gone for more than a year, Piney Orchard has remained busy with a variety of programs from ice hockey to figure skating and public skating.

"We're doing a little better," said Piney Orchard general manager Gary Cremen. "We knew the move was coming. The wear and tear on the building is less. We don't have to replace as many things."

Cremen said Piney Orchard is trying to become an even stronger community-oriented rink.

Scheduling is much easier because the Capitals got the first call on ice time, and the team didn't always want the same times. Cremen said they'd often use as many as three different times, and everything had to be scheduled around them because of the team's contract for ice time and facilities.

Among the rink's many programs that keeps the rink occupied, Cremen said, is a year-round adult league with 22 teams at various levels that's very popular.

"We were booked solid before they [Capitals] left, and we're booked solid now," Cremen said. "We've now got more consistency in our daytime programs."

The rink keeps a full schedule involving various types of hockey (adult, high school pick-up and different programs throughout the year), figure skating (which can be as early as 6 a.m.) and open ice time for those who simply want to skate.

The University of Maryland Baltimore County men's club hockey team moved into one of the rooms that had been used by the Capitals.

The Retrievers had been playing and training there, but this gave them some added space.

"At first, it was exciting because [Peter] Bondra's and [Olie] Kolzig's equipment was still there," said UMBC coach Dan Grisanti. "[Alex] Ovechkin's spot was marked, so a lot of the guys were sitting in his spot."

Grisanti's team now has the locker room across the hall from the Caps' old one, and they've put in benches and shelves and painted in with the UMBC colors of black and gold, something he believes helps the program.

"At this level, we model our program after Division I teams, where [players] are treated like a top-notch player," Grisanti said. "I think it has a big effect on our recruiting. Most of the players we go after are Junior A, B or NCAA Division III players who are used to this treatment."

Piney Orchard is renting out another locker room to the Professional Development Hockey League, a program for post-college hockey players. Former Maryland coach Frank Costello also has a personal/group training program up and running.

Capitals team owner Ted Leonsis has said the team's move to a multimillion-dollar facility in Northern Virginia was a business decision. In an interview on Metroblogging D.C., he said that the team members felt they were "suboptimized in the space we had at Piney Orchard. The Piney Orchard camp and practice facility was created when we played at the old USAir Arena [in Prince George's County], and it means that the nexus of living space for the players and the staff were out near Baltimore or Annapolis. When we moved into ... Verizon Center, it didn't make sense any more."

The Capitals training and practicing at Piney Orchard may have helped give the facility a name, but it stands on its own now.

"Everything is fine," Cremen said. "We're just trying to maintain our programs and start hockey programs from the grass-roots level, which can be tough, but we're [working]."

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