KSU, local hockey teams struggle with ice arena closure


Coach Zack Nowack talks with the Kent State D3 Ice Hockey team at the Kent State Ice Arena. Sept. 19, 2019. 

Sean Blevins Sports reporter

The closing of the Kent State Ice Arena has left Kent State University and other hockey and figure skating teams in limbo. 

The facility was closed indefinitely Sept. 25 as part of the university’s plan to limit the increasing spread of COVID-19, according to a letter sent by the university to teams that train there. Three positive cases linked to the facility triggered its closing. 

The ice arena hosts the two Kent State American Collegiate Hockey Association hockey teams, the Kent State figure skating team, six area high school teams, a figure skating club and a youth hockey program. 

“The closure has completely screwed up my life,” said Jason Smith, a senior center for the KSU Division I team. “This is the longest most of us haven’t been on the ice in years.” 

“It is such a great resource to the community, and it’s not available right now,” said Kimberly Rufra, associate dean of Recreational Services. “Many teams have had a hard time trying to find other facilities to get ice time.” 

KSU’s Division I team had only one player-led practice before the arena closed. Players have not been able to practice since then and have been working on conditioning at home, Division I coach Zachary Nowak said. 

“We have regular team Zoom meetings to discuss leadership, expectations and even just to talk hockey,” Nowak said. “The closure has allowed me to become a better coach outside the rink.” 

Nowak said that the status for many of his team’s fall and winter games is “up in the air.” 

The closing of the arena has also taken a toll on high school coaches, parents and players. Game and practice schedules are constantly changing. 

“Life is about being prepared for the unexpected,” said Walsh Jesuit High School hockey coach Pete Calleri. 

Calleri said that parents and students now have to drive an hour two nights a week to practice at The Pond in Chagrin Falls. 

“To say we are upset is an understatement,” Calleri said. “It has been a nightmare trying to replace events on our schedule.”

Sean Blevins is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected].


Hi, I’m Lauren Sasala, a senior journalism student from Toledo. I’m also the editor in chief of The Kent Stater and KentWired this semester. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important news about Kent State and the Kent community. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate.