The Last Skate: A Salute to 32 years at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion
September 26, 2013 9:22 AM
by Joe Battista
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Sunday September 22, 2013 brought about a bittersweet close to a 32 year chapter in the history of Penn State for all the patrons who "laced 'em up" to skate at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion on the Penn State Campus.

Tucked next to the football practice facilities and offices it was not unusual for some faculty, staff and students to go through years at PSU and never even realize we even had an ice rink on campus.

Parking was always a challenge. Giving directions to visitors often resulted in folks driving all over campus trying to figure out which of the turns they should have made at the five way intersection of Bigler road, Bigler "extended", Hastings, McKean, and McKean "extended".

Even the front entrance to the building was never easy to find and there was little in the way of signage for us to promote the facility.

Despite the challenges the "Ice Pavilion", "Greenberg", the "Ice Rink", or the "Icerdome" as it was called over the years, helped serve the recreational and entertainment needs of millions since its opening in January of 1981.

Back then the walls were bare and the Nevco scoreboard (which functioned to the very end) was literally installed the day before the first PSU hockey game.

So Sunday night, with the efforts of Assistant Manager Sheri Cramer and supervisor Deb Campbell, the current Ice Rink staff gathered for a pizza party and a "Last Skate".

The younger members of the staff probably had no idea that I stood there watching them play a game of "shinny" hockey with moist eyes and a smile on my face. The hockey skaters were trying to learn how to do spins from our figure skating staff and the skating staff had a ball playing an impromptu game of hockey.

My wife, the former Heidi Smith, made it in to reminisce a bit, as we have shared so many memories in Greenberg over the years. It was a second home to us and our kids (much to their chagrin at times getting dragged to the rink to watch me coach!). Heidi was actually the first "Score-O" contestant at the first Icer game in the rink and almost put the puck through the small slot in the board that hung on the crossbar on the first shot!

Heidi was a member of the Hockey Management Association (HMA) in 1981 that handled home game operations, sold advertising and programs, and handled all the marketing of the team. That is how we first met as I was the Vice President of the organization and she caught my eye at the very first recruiting session for new members.

We became friends but she played hard to get. We didn't have our first date until two years later. We didn't start dating seriously until I returned to PSU as a first year coach in 1987-88. She claims I needed "maturing"!

Heidi and I took some pictures on the ice and over by the bench where for 19 years as the Head Coach of the Icers, I made every referee feel very welcome! (You believe me don't you?!!). Perhaps the most often heard phrases from the old coach were "I am starting to lose my sense of humor Stripes" and "You couldn't ref a pee-wee game!" I actually had great fun with the fellas in black and white stripes over the years and many are still very good friends.

So as I skated around for the final time I started thinking about the friendships, the administrative challenges, the battles, the fun, the heartbreak of a tough loss, and the exhilaration of the big wins.

Mostly I thought about all the good people who worked at the rink over the years and the coaches and players I had the privilege of working with in my 32 year adventure at Greenberg. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the generosity of the Greenberg's whose gift made the facility possible and some of the key people behind the scenes who supported the rink and programs.

Herb Schmidt, Larry Fies, Dale Roth, Vance McCullogh, Vinnie Scalamogna, Brian Hassinger, Terry Houser, Grant Davis, Chris Whittemore, Dena Yeagley and many more that I could name. To all of them I say "Thank You" for your service and your patience in putting up with this dreamer who always badgered them with the idea that someday we could have a big-time arena and major Division I college hockey in Central Pa.

I tried my best to come up with a top ten list of my favorite (and not so favorite) memories at the Ice Pavilion but between my rapidly fading memory and the stress of opening the new Pegula Ice Arena, it was tough to focus. So here is a random sampling of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" from 32 years in Greenberg:

I could of course tell hundreds of more stories and I apologize for leaving out some of the good and not so good memories. It has been an amazing 32 year journey in the Greenberg Ice Rink.

On behalf of all the patrons who enjoyed a public skate, a youth hockey practice or game, a private or group skating lesson, a game of broomball, or an Icer or Lady Icer game, I say THANK YOU!

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