Project Power Play aims to grow dek hockey in Valley

Mill Creek Park’s old ice-skating rink is getting a blue makeover courtesy of a team that wears black and gold.

On Tuesday morning, volunteers from Mill Creek MetroParks, Home Savings, the Youngstown Phantoms and The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation were laying down blue tiles for the park’s new dek hockey rink.

Dek hockey is the outdoor version of ice hockey that is typically played on foot instead of skates. Unlike the facility its replacing, the dek can be used all year.

“That’s one of the most exciting parts about adding this recreational opportunity,” said Aaron Young, MetroParks executive director. “Everybody knows the history of the Wick Recreation Area. This new project is a tip of the cap to the old history of what used to be here. It’s just in a new and improved manner.”

The Dek is the foundation’s first dek in Ohio after building 13 in western Pennsylvania. It’s part of the foundation’s Project Power Play meant to make a more affordable version of hockey accessible.

Mill Creek and the foundation – a nonprofit whose primary sponsor is the NHL franchise – linked up through the Phantoms and Home Savings came aboard to contribute.

“We’ve done some promotional stuff with the Phantoms and we were approached by Mill Creek Park with a strong interest, asking ‘How do we put a dek up?’” foundation president Dave Soltesz said. “For us, it’s about growing the game. This is a market where we have youth hockey teams already, but how can you introduce more kids to the game?

“It’s great for parents. You can have a kid say he wants to play hockey and do you want to go out and buy skates and all that stuff? It’s cool to just go out there and play the game,” Soltesz said.

The Dek features covered benches and an electronic scoreboard.

The estimated $250,000 facility was completed Tuesday afternoon.

Young said he didn’t have exact figures to what the MetroParks paid, but said it was “minimal” with the foundation covering the majority of the costs.

The dek is expected to become fully operational in 2019, with leagues and safety rules established around that time. The Phantoms will also run clinics on dek hockey.

“It’s too soon with Mother Nature creeping up on us here. The hope is by 2019, we have everything for leagues to operate,” Young said.

“We’re evaluating our own operations in terms of running leagues. We’re not through with our evaluation just yet, which is why 2019 is more realistic to us.”

Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson had his own version of dek hockey growing up Cranbrook, British Columbia, which was hockey on the concrete floor of a local fire hall. It’s one of his fonder memories of his sport and one area kids can have – minus the concrete.

“It’s not always about being coached or being out there in a formal setting. It’s about being able to go out there and try new things, have fun with it and get out with friends and family,” Patterson said.

“I think this being out here in the area gives us a huge outlet to do that.”

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