I have no idea where to start here. I guess from the beginning.
When I was 13, I was lucky enough to start playing hockey for one of the best high school programs in the area (Serra Catholic). Though I had played developmental hockey a handful of years at other rinks in the area, I had never ever been to the famed Rostraver Ice Garden. Over the course of the next several years, I spent hours upon hours in that building we called home. After school practices for Serra, late night practices for the Mon Valley Thunder, and again in college with RMU. The memories are endless in that place for me.
I will never forget the night that the old roof collapsed in 2010. It was valentines day, and we had added an extra practice to our schedule to help prepare for the Penguin cup playoffs. The practice was scheduled for 8PM, but we got word that the roof had collapsed earlier in the afternoon, which was hard to believe let alone see. We were forced to practice and play the rest of the season in a couple of other rinks around town, but none of them were like Rostraver. After the roof collapse, I remember the future of the entire rink being in doubt for quite some time. Lots of ideas floated around, and nobody really knew just how they could get that place up and running again. With a ton of support from the community, a somewhat miraculous rebuild of the old place got underway. I remember riding up to Murph's with my dad as the place was still roofless, just to see Vicki and the rest of the people that worked upstairs (We were all Murph's Pub regulars). A good handful of my Serra teammates and I spent a couple of days helping out as the summer went on. We helped paint the locker rooms and the benches, which got a major face lift as the new roof got finished up. After a long summer of doubt, the Ice Garden was ready to rock again. We played our season opener in the "newly" roofed Ice Garden on a sheet of ice that might have only been a quarter inch thick, but we were back at home and that's all that mattered.
Over that 4 year span, a lot of great memories were made. Some gigantic wins, some terrible losses and everything in between. Beating the big guns at the Ice Garden never ever got old for any of us. I cant even put a number on how many times we had to skate laps or run bleachers around that place (for some reason or another), and I can even add in the training camp runs which had us in the field out by the parking lot doing mountain climbers till our arms and legs fell off. Then we had to do it again lol. Even as I graduated and moved along to college hockey, all my teammates dreaded playing in the CHE playoffs which took place at Rostraver. While they moaned and groaned, I ran around telling everyone in the room that the Ice Garden was the "birthplace of hockey©" (seriously I did and they all hated hearing me say it). I meant it though, I always did and I always will, even if I have no idea what it really means.
I got lots and lots of crap over the years about all the shortcomings of the place, and yeah i'm not here saying that they aren't true. But no matter what you think, that place was literally the rink that I learned to play the game in, and the place that I spent more time in than any other place back in those glory days. Hopefully someday I can take my own kid to learn to skate on that very same rink.
So here's to all the old Zamboni's sitting behind the garage out back. Here's to all the alumni games and parties in the Verso room. Here's to all the mozz sticks I ordered off of Vic and Gab and Chrissy between hockey practices up at Murph's. Here's to Bo always missing the top of the circle when he cut the ice. Here's to the bench doors that always got stuck. Here's to the boards that were never forgiving when you got destroyed in the corner. Here's to fighting over the corner seat in locker rooms 2 and 3. Here's to the giant jump you had to make to get back over the boards onto the bench. Here's to the afternoon practices with the doors wide open. Here's to Murph for letting us book the ice on any holiday we ever asked. Here's to every big game won, and bad game lost. Here's to all the guys that put on a jersey with me in those rooms. Here's to all the blood, sweat and tears that every single player put in at that rink. Here's to the community rallying around that place when it needed it most. And here's to The Rostraver Ice Garden finally getting the love it deserves.
VOTE NOW For Rostraver to become the next Kraft Hockeyville
Always A Serra Catholic Eagle and Mon Valley Thunder Player.