My NEW To Do List

Hi it’s Heather from Skate Helper and like most people I am ready to get back to business and get out into the world.  While social distancing will be with us for a while, I’ve been thinking about all the things I look forward to doing when the lockdown eases.  I hope this list will get you thinking about what you would like to do.

Stay Positive

Many of us have felt trapped in our homes working, helping our kids with online schooling, playing games, rearranging the furniture, gardening, going for walks and zooming with friends. Over the past few months, we’ve have been challenged mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually and financially. My family has worked hard to stay positive and feel grateful for what we have.  One topic that we all love to discuss is travel. From planning a road trip to the Maritimes, to imagining Christmas in Hawaii it’s these travel discussions that have really helped us stay hopeful and positive about the future.

I urge you to come up with your own post-pandemic to do list. Some questions to ponder are below.

  1. Where do you want to visit and when will you go?
  2. Who are you excited to see and spend time with?
  3. Will you re-evaluate your career, where you live, your relationships?
  4. What really matters to you? What do you miss?

There are so many benefits to visualizing a positive, exciting future. By embracing an optimistic, positive outlook you will be better equipped to handle stressful situations, which ultimately reduces stress. This is an extraordinary time that allows you to ponder your post-pandemic “To Do” list.

Stay Safe

Heather at Skate Helper.

Create Theme Events at your Ice Arena

Hi, it’s Heather from Skate Helper.  Last week I posted suggestions on how to create additional revenue. I realized there is also an opportunity to create weekly, monthly, seasonal theme events that will generate more revenue and help you become a top choice for birthday parties and other celebrations.

You may need to hire an event planner to help you create, market and execute these theme nights. Another more cost-effective option would be to gather up all staff and brainstorm on what types of theme nights would work best at your facility.

Kids Birthday Parties

Your arena can become the number one birthday party destination. You can offer different packages and price them accordingly just like our customer Mt. Lebanon Ice Center (image of one of their parties pictured above).  The hockey birthday party, the Disney birthday party, the skating and craft birthday party.  Lots of options for this. Offer parents the online invitations and party room and make it easy for parents to book a party. Have your staff there ready to help create a positive experience. Offer Skate Helpers to those who may not know how to skate.

Skating party invitation from

Date Night or Teen Night

Hire a DJ to play music and put on a light show. Invite a food truck to the event or ask a local café to handle the catering. If you have a licensed restaurant in the facility you can offer special dinner-and-drink options.

Seasonal Holiday Events

This can be a big money maker. Use music, lights and decorations have staff dressed in costumes. Make if fun and exciting. Give your customers a memorable experience that would create an annual tradition that everyone looks forward to.

Skating Sessions for Seniors

Have Skate Helpers available for those who are nervous to get back skating. You could also invite community health agencies once a week or once a month to offer free blood pressure checks, diabetes testing, eye testing etc. Your arena becomes a community health and wellness center.

Market your Event Space

Market your event space to local companies as the perfect corporate event experience. Offer companies corporate packages like a “Try Hockey” session or “Try Broomball” then have a party room area where they can have a team building session. Offer full catering and event planning making it easy for the company to book a corporate event with you.

While hockey can be an expensive sport ice skating is not. Ice skating is social, inexpensive and most skating is done indoors so you don’t have to depend on the weather to go skating unless of course you are skating outdoors.

Stay Safe and Healthy

Heather at Skate Helper

How can Ice Arenas Increase Revenue?

Hi, it’s Heather from Skate Helper.  Like everyone I can’t wait get back to working at a regular pace. Since business has slowed, I’ve started blogging and realized that over the past 13 years in business I’ve learned a great deal from my customers and how they generate extra revenue.  In order to increase revenue, ice arenas must either gain new customers or sell more to existing customers. Below are some suggestions that may help your facility increase revenue.

Offer Value-Added Service

Selling a value-added service to an existing customer is easier than getting a new customer.  The Skate Helper is an example of a value-added service. Some of my customers have gone to local businesses like orthodontists, lawyers, hospitals to secure funding and in return have put their logo placed prominently on the front of the Skate Helpers.  Other ice arenas have purchased the skate helpers and in turn rent them out to their customers so they pay for themselves in a season or two.

The Skate Helpers can also be used in adaptive skating programs. Ice arenas can offer inclusive programs enabling people with balance issues or autism the chance to experience ice skating in a safe way. Older adults could also benefit using the skate helper as adults can use two stacked together. Offering adaptive skating programs to the community may help create a new customer base.

A few months ago, I visited the Chicago Blackhawks to see their First Stride program in action. Every day 60 kids come to the arena to participate in skating and learn a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) program.  Perhaps ice arenas could offer something like this on a smaller scale and work with local school boards. Bring kids into the arena for skating and then perhaps an hour of educational instruction.

The Chicago Blackhawks use the skate helper as part of their First Stride program.

Hire an Expert or Find One In-House

You’ve got to spend money to make money.  An ice arena may benefit from hiring a marketing, social media or event planner. This may be one person or three different people depending on how big your facility is. All three are extremely important in building your brand and awareness of your facility. There are many freelancers that can be hired on a contract basis. Having someone dedicated to creating, executing and managing events make that person invaluable. Your arena is more than just an ice rink.

If money is really tight, look inward and see what kind of talent you have at your disposal internally. You may be surprised at the potential of creative thought and innovation if you simply ask for it. For example, I know that students and part-time help would love to be asked their opinions.

Customer Experience

Visiting the ice arena should be an enjoyable experience. As a hockey mom I’ve spent a lot of time at various ice arenas.  Maybe there’s an opportunity to enhance food and beverage services. Partner up with a local business to offer healthy snacks, quality coffee and tea and perhaps smoothies. Sell fruit and other healthy alternatives to junk food. The ice arena should be a wellness center just like community centers and gyms. You can promote health and wellness by hanging inspiring artwork or posters, and pictures of your management team. You could book an appointment with an interior designer to come in and offer advice on how you might refresh the arena interior with paint and furniture.  In short, make your space feel inviting and warm! Customers pay attention to details. Would a customer believe that your staff are well groomed and presentable? Are they trained in customer service and are they friendly and outgoing?  How clean is your facility?  Look in the lobby, locker rooms and restrooms. Your facility represents your brand.  So many times, I left the rink to get a coffee or sandwich. Other times I just sat in my car and looked at my phone because my car was more comfortable.

What about partnering with a local gym and offering some kind of membership deal along with skating passes?  Could you put a couple of recombinant bikes in the waiting area sectioned off as “Adult-Only” so parents could ride them while waiting for practice to end.  How about creating a children’s play area in the lobby or a lending library area for families?

I remember being in the Calgary Airport and you could hop on a bike and see how much energy you were generating. It was better than just sitting there waiting for my flight.

Offer customers comfortable seating with charging stations and put televisions up so you can broadcast your upcoming events. If you make your customers feel more comfortable, they will feel positive about the experience at your facility. They will then be more inclined to spend money on food and beverage, rent a skate helper or sign up for other programs your facility is offering.  There is power in Word of Mouth referrals.

Other Ways to Generate Revenue:

  • Use your rink year-round. Your arena is an event space. Market to customers who may need a big event space for wedding fairs, farmers markets or trade shows.
  • In the off season take the ice out and use the floor surface for indoor sports like volley ball, ball hockey, lacrosse or basketball. This may be a great reason to hire a marketing professional who can market the rink in the off-season and sell to new customers.
  • Partner with a gym or personal trainer and run athletic training camps for kids, teens and adults. Make your facility more than just an ice arena – it is a community wellness center.
  • Sell advertising in your facility. Get local businesses to sponsor your scoreboard or dasher boards. Look to local businesses like banks, local restaurants, account ants, realtors, car dealerships etc. Any businesses that your customers go to regularly should be on your contact list.

Stay Safe and Healthy

Heather from Skate Helper

Small Business Tips During Self Isolation

Hi, it’s Heather from Skate Helper. Like most small businesses, mine too has slowed considerably. Normally, during this time of year things are slow but never this slow. Governments have offered funding and that will help but there are other things small businesses can do during this time.

What can you do?

One thing I’ve done is contact my accountant to review taxes and cash flow. I also contacted my insurance provider to see if my policy includes anything in terms of lost income or business interruption insurance.

Communicate with your Customers

I’ve reached out to all my customers to check in and see how they are doing. I gave them an update of where I’m at with my business and when I’m hoping to resume at a normal pace. I think now more than ever you need to be transparent with your customers and your employees.

Marketing and Social Media

I’m looking at my marketing and social media strategies. Now is great time to hire a freelance social media person or website consultant. I believe you need to continue to put your brand and message out there and align your company with your values and beliefs.

This is a perfect time to look at revising your website, start a blog, add new pictures to your photo gallery or Instagram. Refresh and update anything older than a couple of years. When are you ever going to have this much time to really think hard about your business and what changes you may need to make?

Prepare an online marketing strategy so you stay connected with your customers throughout this time. In my industry, direct mail still works really well. I plan to mail brochures to every ice arena in North America.

Explore Options for Government Funding

Be sure to talk to your suppliers and lenders and look into applying for any government funding that may be available to you.

Research your Industry

Now is a great time to do any research or reading on your industry. Find out what your customers are doing. Connect with them through Facebook and Instagram. Find out how they are coping during this unusual time.  Be proactive not reactive. Is there another area where you can expand?  Is there another service you can offer your customers?

We are at a time where innovation and creativity will guide society to change the way we do business. I’m sure the government leaders will be looking at innovative ways on how government services are structured and delivered. So many areas need to be reviewed. The old “normal” way of doing things may not work anymore.

Our New “Normal”

Once we get through this, I hope businesses keep the plexi-glass shields up, keep educating people to wash hands and sanitize regularly. Keep up social distancing until a vaccine is available. Keep working together, caring about one another and helping one another get through this.

Stay safe and be kind.

Heather at Skate Helper.

The Ripple Effect

Hi, it’s Heather from Skate Helper. For me, every day seems like Groundhog Day and that’s a good thing. I don’t want anything to change my family’s routine until the curve is flattened and we are allowed to get back to business. I truly believe we will get through this.

Random Acts of Kindness

In the last few weeks, like many people, I’ve been struck by the random acts of kindness happening all over. One person’s act has an amazing ripple effect of spreading positive energy out into the universe.

I was recently inspired by Facebook posts. My friend Suzanne is sewing cotton masks at her home and will be donating them to her local hospital’s emergency dept. My other friend Sarah posted that her husband’s company is now manufacturing plastic face shields for local hospitals. My friend Randy put up positive signs in his living room window.

Random acts of kindness are everywhere. I see inspirational rocks when I walk through my neighbourhood. That inspired my daughter to paint several rocks of her own with messages and place them to be enjoyed by others.

It makes walking everyday fun and seem like a treasure hunt. Many people are banging pots and pans thanking hospital staff, first responders and essential staff during shift changes. Acknowledgement is very powerful!

How to Start a Ripple Effect

The social isolation may last well into the summer. Below are some suggestions that will put positive vibes out into your community and start a ripple effect.

  • smile and say hello to people out walking – at least 2 metres away of course
  • connect with old friends, check in and see how they are doing
  • continue to donate blood
  • donate to the food bank
  • order take-out when you can from different local restaurants
  • choose to support any business that is open during this time
  • write thank you letters and mail to hospitals, police stations, fire departments, grocery stores, gas stations, politicians, etc
  • bake cookies or muffins and give to elderly neighbours who may be stuck inside
  • pick up garbage in your yard, or in your neighbourhood

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”    Desmond Tutu.

Stay Safe and Be Kind.

Heather at Skate Helper.

My New Normal

Hi it’s Heather from Skate Helper. Like many small businesses my business has slowed considerably and understandably so. My manufacturer is closing temporarily and my customers have done the same.

I would like to say to all small businesses have faith and believe these difficult times will come to an end. Now is the time to focus on your health, your family and to be kind.

My husband Tony and I are at home with our two kids and like many families are trying to stick to a schedule and stay positive.

We decided that Tony should be the only person to go out and grocery shop. We have a dog Fritz who helps us remember to relax, and live in the moment. We take long daily walks and have kept busy planning meals and cooking together. The snow is melting so the bikes will be coming out soon. The basketball hoop is up in the driveway and the yoga mats are ready to go in the basement. Online schooling looks like it may be more of an option now so that helps parents everywhere.

Have Faith

This isolation is economically hard on everyone. For me, it has forced us to slow down and think about what is really important.

I have faith in government to figure this out. Many are unemployed and in need of financial assistance and I believe the government will find solutions. We could not stay in our homes and be safe if it weren’t for all the health care workers, first responders, essential service workers and all the workers whose services we perhaps took for granted in the past. We need to acknowledge all the workers that continue to do the critically important work that make our lives as normal as possible.

I think it’s important to remember that the World Health Organization says those who become infected generally experience mild illness and recover in about two weeks.

We Are In This Together

Tough days ahead for sure, but remember that you are not alone in this. Everyone is being affected in some way.

I want to thank all of my customers and the businesses that I work with. I look forward to working with you again when we are back up and running at our usual pace. We are all in this together and we will get through this together.

Stay Safe and Be Kind.

Heather at Skate Helper.

Creative Ways to Stay Busy

Right now, it’s mandatory that we slow down and relax. Staying at home and spending time with family will make all of us reflect and think about what is important.

To help navigate these unfamiliar circumstances and take everyone’s mind off the hourly news updates, we suggest tapping into your creativity. You don’t have to be creative, it’s fun, and may help you and your family see the world in a different way.

I have a nine and fourteen year-old and here’s how we are being creative in our home.

  1. We brainstormed what things we would like to do over the next few weeks. In ten minutes, we came up with 53 great ideas. Remember that brainstorming is all about generating ideas, so no idea is a bad idea…anything goes.
  2. We are meal planning and cooking together. We never had the time to do that before. My son and daughter have baked brownies together and want to bake more regularly.
  3. Each of us are writing in our journals daily. We want to capture how we are feeling and what we are doing each day.
  4. We set aside time everyday to read.
  5. We are walking for at least an hour every day. Walking in nature is a great way to recharge, get exercise and appreciate your surroundings.
  6. We listen to our CD collection (yup we still have them). My kids are interested in learning about The Jackson 5, The Beatles, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. They are interested in what concerts we’ve attended and leads to great discussion.
  7. We’ve started playing cards after dinner.
  8. We dug out the Monopoly, backgammon, chess and crib boards.

When you actually have the time to slow down and think about what you would like to do there are loads of ideas. Make lemonade out of lemons.

Stay healthy and be safe.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

From Heather at Skate Helper.


Why is it called an ice rink and could outdoor skating become extinct?

Rink, is a Scottish word meaning ‘course’, it was used as the name of a place where curling was played. Early in its history, ice hockey was played mostly on rinks constructed for curling. The name was retained after hockey-specific facilities were built.

Variations of both curling and hockey had been played for many generations prior to the naming of the playing area, but the origins of the modern, indoor ice rink can be traced back to Montreal, where the first organized indoor game was played at the Victoria Skating Rink in 1875.

Outdoor Skating

It’s becoming a luxury to experience skating outdoors on a natural frozen rink in the wintertime. As of Feb 23, 2020 the Rideau Canal closed.  It was open for only 31 days from Jan. 18thto Feb. 23rd. More than 381,000 visitors enjoyed the canal in 2020. In a statement, the NCC says “the unusually warm weather earlier this week resulted in a significant degradation of the ice. With a major snowfall in the forecast, followed by higher temperatures, our mighty maintenance team can no longer ensure safe ice conditions.”  For the first time in the 50-year history of the Rideau Canal Skateway, the full length of the Skateway didn’t open for skaters.  Is this a sign of climate change?

Heather logan, creator of The Skate Helper, enjoys one of the final days of skating on the Rideau Canal before it closed early on Feb.23, 2020. 

Global Warming

RinkWatch is a citizen science research initiative that asks people who love outdoor skating to help environmental scientists monitor winter weather conditions and study the long-term impacts of climate change. Launched by researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University in January 2013, participants from across North America have submitted information about skating conditions on more than 1,400 outdoor rinks and ponds. In addition to contributing valuable data to environmental science, RinkWatch has become anonline community for people who love making backyard and community rinks.

Global warming is part of our life and major weather events are becoming a regular news item. Many people in the world will never experience outdoor skating on a natural rink. Skating outdoors in a natural setting is not only magical and awe-inspiring but it gives you a sense of freedom, it is also fun, and exhilarating.

The CBC has compiled an excellent list of scenic once-in-a-lifetime skating rink experiences in Canada check it out here.




A Sneak Peek of What’s Coming up from Skate Helper

Hi, it’s Heather from Skate Helper. Want a sneak peek of what’s coming up? I recently went to Chicago to see the Chicago Blackhawks First Stride Program in action and shoot a video….which is coming soon.

First Class Organization

I was so impressed with the Chicago Blackhawks – they truly are an iconic, first-class organization. From the modern design and cleanliness of the Fifth – Third Arena, the innovative and community driven First Stride Program, to the experienced, professional, forward thinking Blackhawks representatives – all I can say is my visit to the Fifth-Third Arena was simply amazing.

The First Stride Program

The First Stride program has been using the Skate Helper as a tool since the arena opened in 2017. Every day, sixty grade 4 and 5 students take part in the program.
First Stride is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The students arrive on school buses and are treated like VIP’s as soon as they walk in. The locker room is set up with each of their names, they get a t-shirt, gloves and skates all laid out in the cubby ready to go.
After the 40 minute skating session the kids head upstairs to the classroom to do a STEM education program ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). The morning I was there the kids were building robots. It was so cool.
Very proud that the Skate Helper is a big part of the First Stride Program. Click here to check it out.

Tour of Fifth- Third Arena and my trip to Chicago….coming soon.


Who is Making Ice Skating more Accessible?

Conway Arena

There are many barriers to ice skating whether it’s cost, mobility issues or just being afraid to try it.  For many people ice skating is just something they read about or see when they watch television.  Today, more and more arenas are offering adaptive skating programs. Once such arena is Conway Arena in New Hampshire where the Adaptive Adults Skating Program uses the skate helpers regularly.

First Stride Program

The Chicago Blackhawks introduced their First Stride program two years ago and the results have been amazing.  Their goal is to offer every school within a two-mile radius of the Fifth Third Arena the chance to come and learn how to skate and also learn in the classroom about S.T.E.M ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).  Over 113,000 kids go through the program every year.  For many families skating and hockey is just not available or affordable. The Blackhawks offer skate helpers to those kids who may feel scared their first time on the ice.

The Adaptive Sports Program at Franciscan Children’s

This program provides children with special needs the opportunity to participate in sports and active recreation in a fun and safe environment. The Program promotes the learning of new skills, social opportunities and moderate to vigorous physical activity to maintain and improve health and fitness. The program takes place at the Boston Bruins Warrior Ice Arena in Brighton, MA.

Lern more about this adaptive sports program by watching here: