Ice War: Local League cries foul over scheduling at Huntsville Iceplex

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Like most sports, in every hockey game, there's a winner and a loser. A local hockey league feels like it's on the losing side of a battle with a city-affiliated ice rink.

“I’m really frustrated by it," said Troy Skinner, a longtime player out at the Huntsville Iceplex.

Skinner is a part of a North Alabama Hockey Association league that normally practices Wednesday nights at the Iceplex.

“It’s pretty upsetting. This is my workout for my week and it’s a lot of guy’s release, this is our pastime and being denied the opportunity to do it," said fellow player Ryan Crim.

Soon, NAHA said they'll lose that early evening slot, and other adult leagues will lose their normal spots too.

“It seems that we’re going to be blocked with our adults on Sundays and weekends so maybe the adult players that travel on weekends are not going to be able to play or are going to have to look for other groups," said Ralph Drensek, the NAHA President.

Drensek said the problem originates with a policy change voted on by the Huntsville Ice Board two months ago over how ice time is rented.

"Historically we’ve been able to adjust our ice to make those programs fit, and that new policy says we don’t have that flexibility anymore," said Drensek.

The Senior Facility Manager for the Iceplex, Steve Clough, declined to do an on-camera interview with WHNT News 19, but said in an email that all NAHA programs have slots this year, but that youth skaters get first priority, which means the adult programs are scheduled to be later in the evening.

Clough writes, "With the popularity of hockey for all age groups at an all-time high in the Huntsville area, we try to allocate the remaining ice as fairly as possible amongst all user groups."

The Senior Facility Manager went on to say, "We are trying very hard to achieve scheduling solutions that will be workable for all parties, including the NAHA."

With youth leagues of their own, Drensek said the NAHA doesn't have a problem with the youth-first mentality, they just don't want to be frozen out altogether.

“We’re capped by the amount of ice we have. We’ve kind of suppressed growth by combining practices and doing other things," said Drensek.

When you talk to the players, like Skinner, they care less about the policies and more about getting quality time on the ice.

"It’s just preventing us from having a good time and growing a good community," said Skinner.

“Booking ice isn’t the rocket science that goes on here in Huntsville. Hope it works out," said Crim.