— Lake Erie Monsters (@monstershockey) October 29, 2013
ELYRIA — Professional hockey made a brief appearance in Elyria on Monday evening as the Lake Erie Monsters brought their annual Tour with the Monsters to the North Park Recreation Center ice rink.
The event included a 60-minute practice by the Monsters, Cleveland’s American Hockey League team, followed by an open skate and autograph session with the team.
According to Elyria Recreation Supervisor Lisa Bowman, more than 250 people, many of them youngsters who play for the Elyria Panthers Hockey Club dressed in their uniforms, took part in the open skate.
It was one of five Tour with the Monsters events scheduled around Greater Cleveland this season and the second time the Monsters have visited the Elyria ice rink, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary of serving the community this winter.
“It’s great to have the Lake Erie Monsters come in to help us open up our new season,” Bowman said. “It’s a win-win situation for us and for the Elyria (Panthers) Hockey Club. We both worked together to make this happen.”
The Elyria Panthers sponsor seven teams in the Cleveland Suburban Hockey League that play their games at North Park Rec. The rink also is used by the Elyria Catholic and Midview high school teams as well as the Oberlin College club team.
“The kids love this. This is every little boy’s dream,” said Lee Frank, director of the Elyria Panthers Hockey Club. “Every one of those players out on the ice was once one of these kids standing on the edge of an ice rink. Every kid here tonight has the dream of being where these guys are at.”
Lake Erie Monsters coach Dean Chynoweth said an event like the one Monday is an important part of the organization’s community outreach.
“I think this is a tremendous idea for our players to get out and interact with the boys and girls who are taking up the game of hockey,” said Chynoweth, whose resume included a stint as an assistant coach for the New York Islanders and head-coaching positions in Seattle and Swift Current (Saskatchewan) of the Western Hockey League.
“It’s been great to see the interaction between the team and the community. We did events like this in Seattle, too, to reach out to the youth hockey community. It’s harder to do something like this in Canada. In Swift Current, there would have been a line out the door and a three-hour wait just to get an autograph.”
The Monsters also brought their mascot Sully and had tables set up with giveaways and ticket information.
“This is about giving back to the community, to get the entire team out and accessible to the fans in a setting that promotes interaction between the players and fans,” David Aitken, the Lake Erie Monsters youth hockey specialist, said. “The players enjoy this as much as the fans because it’s a nostalgic setting for them. These are the types of rinks they grew up with.”
The North Park Rec ice rink will have special events and giveaways throughout its 50th-anniversary season.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.