HOLIDAY — It’s a hockey night in Holiday. Or day. Whenever you like.
Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources, in cooperation with the Tampa Bay Lightning, held a ribbon cutting recently for a street hockey rink at J. Ben Harrill Recreation Complex. The rink is open for public play and league play programs are in the works. Another Pasco rink was built and opened at Wesley Chapel District Park.
“Five years ago, with the NHL and the NHL (Players Association), we came together and created the Industry Growth Fund,” said Josh Dreith, manager of street and youth hockey with the Tampa Bay Lightning, in a Pasco County video. “The purpose of the Industry Growth Fund is to simply grow the game of hockey.”
The fund’s initiative aims to build 10 outdoor rinks throughout Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee and Polk counties, Dreith said.
Both Pasco County rinks are funded by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the NHL and the NHLPA through the Industry Growth Fund. The program’s title is “Build the Thunder” and it aims to “foster the love of hockey and future Tampa Bay Lightning fans across the Bay Area.”
The Holiday rink ribbon-cutting was attended by representatives from the county and Tampa Bay Lightning, including former players.
“For us to have a ribbon-cutting here and have two rinks here in Pasco County, we’re super excited,” said Dave Andreychuk, Hockey Hall of Fame left winger who was part of the 2003-04 Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup championship team.
“The favorite part is that they’re all different,” said Jassen Cullimore, another former member of the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Lightning team. “They have different nuances. Different paint jobs, different things that you look forward to that are unique to each.”
When the NHL broached the idea of bringing an outdoor hockey rink to Pasco County, local government leaders were open to the concept and suggested widening the scope.
“When they mentioned they were going to put one in, knowing how large our county is and how much need we have here, I asked them if they would be kind enough to put in two,” said County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.
The construction of the rinks, according to the Lightning and county, are to provide more recreation opportunities for area youths as well as growing the sport of hockey. Adult leagues and other clinics are planned as well.
“I love Pasco County,” said Dreith. “There are a ton of Lightning fans in Pasco County and there’s a ton of engaged kids as well.”