Skate Helper Video Premiere with The Blackhawks

We invite you to watch and see The Skate Helper in action with the Chicago Blackhawks First Stride program!

Today we are extremely excited to share with you a video that was shot at the Fifth Third Arena in Chicago this past January. You can learn more about my visit to Chicago and filming at the Fifth Third Arena in our previous blog post.

First Stride Program

First Stride Program allows 4th and 5th grade students with floor hockey experience a chance to take the ice! Each week 360 Chicago Public School Students will visit Fifth Third Arena, the new Chicago Blackhawks Community Ice Rink, to further their hockey education on and off the ice.

We are honoured that Skate Helper is part of this incredible program.

Watch the Video

 

My visit to Fifth Third Arena in Chicago

Hi, it’s Heather from Skate Helper. I am so excited to be able to finally share a video on Monday August 3, 2020, that we shot at the Fifth Third Arena in Chicago this past January.

How this project came together

Last year, I reached out to Annie Camins the Senior Executive Director, Fan Development for the Chicago Blackhawks and asked if I could visit the arena to see the First Stride program in action and to shoot a video showing how they use the Skate Helper.

Annie said yes and off I went in January to the windy city. Annie and her team organized everything. They were extremely welcoming and very professional. I quickly realized how progressive the Blackhawks organization is.

I was blown away!

The arena and the First Stride program are first class all the way. Prior to Covid, the First Stride program had 360 Chicago public school students visiting the Fifth Third Arena every week.  The programming for First Stride starts off by welcoming the students to the arena where they are then escorted into the locker room. In the locker room their name is proudly displayed on the cubby along with a First Stride shirt, ice skates and gloves.

After skating the students spend time in the classroom learning a S.T.E.M program. The day I visited, the students they were building robots. The students are also provided a healthy snack and a school bus ride back to school. This is all paid for by the Chicago Blackhawks. This program is so impressive and the kids love it.

First Stride is a progressive community program that engages and inspires local youth. In my opinion, this program should be rolled out to all communities where the NHL has teams.

Chicago sports fans are serious and they really love their teams

I live in Canada and had visited Chicago before but I never had an experience like this. Chicago sports fans are serious and they really love their teams. I was fortunate enough to attend a game at the United Center and it was unlike any other NHL game I’ve been to. I remember the game vividly as Predators goalie Pekka Rinne scored a goal on an empty net. Chicago lost 5-2. Chicago has some of the BEST fans anywhere and the best stadium food. The energy in the building played like a game 7 of the playoffs.

Gratitude

I want to shout out a HUGE thank you to the two women leaders at the Chicago Blackhawks who made the video happen. Annie Camins Senior Executive Director, Fan Development for the Chicago Blackhawks and Andrea Hahn – the General Manager of the Fifth Third Arena – you both are truly trailblazers working in the NHL. Thanks for sharing your positive feedback on the skate helper. I am extremely proud that the Skate Helper is part of this important community initiative.

Inspiration through sport is what First Stride is all about and I think that’s what the Chicago Blackhawks is all about. Get your Hockey Hit this upcoming week! Go Blackhawks!

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 Zazzle.com

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

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.

 

 

 

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:

My first winter in Ottawa

New to East Coast Winters

My family and I decided to move from Richmond, BC to Ottawa, ON this past summer.  We moved 13,000 pounds of stuff across the country. So far Ottawa has been very pleasant. Summer and fall were beautiful and now we are emersed in winter.

My kids are excited about the snow. I bought a parka at Costco, snow tires are on, and my skates are sharpened. Winter is lovely if you dress for it- ( I say this now without having experienced minus 20 or freezing rain) – but winter is a season that should be embraced and enjoyed.

The Rideau Canal

My family and I will be enjoying  the Rideau Canal with our skates and skate helpers. I’m just getting back into skating so I will use two skate helpers stacked together to get my balance and gain my confidence on the ice. We are all very excited about outdoor skating.

The Rideau Canal is Canada’s largest outdoor skating rink and is nearly 7.5 kilometres or 5 miles long. The naturally frozen canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is usually open January to March. It’s free, just need to bring your own skates or rent them from a hut along the banks.

Another skating spot we will try within a 45-minute drive from Ottawa is a 3-kilometre ice trail through the forest in Gatineau. There’s a heated building on site where you can lace up your skates, and rest areas along the trail where you can sit back and enjoy the scenery, birds and squirrels. https://www.patinageenforet.com/

The Bentway

The Bentway is another great location for skating, it transforms into a uniquely urban winter wonderland with the opening of the 220 metre skate trail open seven days a week from 12 – 9 p.m.

An on-site winter village will offer hot chocolate and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for skaters and spectators, while warming stations will help visitors get toasty before getting back on the ice.

Can’t skate? No problem! The Bentway will offer recurring free skate lessons for kids and adults. On-site skate rentals are available daily along with skate helpers.

The Bentway Skate Trail continues from January 6 to February 17, 2020 with amended weekday hours.

I look forward to discovering outdoor skating in Ottawa and Toronto this winter season.

Enjoy your winter  – get out and move!

Happy Trails from Heather at Skate Helper.

Parent and Tot Skate with $5 Skate Helper Rental

Marketing Ideas for Ice Skating Rinks

Ice skating rinks are competing with other entertainment venues when not being used for figure skating, hockey games or practices. Below are some ideas on how ice rinks can market themselves and generate additional revenue.

  1. Having Skate Helpers on hand to rent out to school groups or parents with kids is a great way to make additional revenue. Use the recessed panel on the front of the Skate Helper and put a logo sticker there.
  2. Offer a Skating Card – after 5 visits get your 6 th visit free.
  3. Offer skaters different experiences with “THEME” nights. Rinks can use music, decorations, food, lights to create events that customers want to go to. Bring in other local businesses to highlight their services.
    • Xmas Holiday Theme – with music, lights and decorations
    • Teen Only Skate Nights – bring in local restaurant fare
    • Date Night
    • Valentines’ Day
    • St. Patricks’ Day
    • Easter
    • Summer Fun on the Ice
    • Halloween

The ice rink industry is an 871 million dollar business in the US. It has experienced strong growth over the past few years. Demand has increased because of growing disposable income and rising health awareness.