Get your skate on at the Haymarket Iceplex
Photos by Christine Craddock
On a map of the metro D.C. area, there are a half dozen or so ice rinks available to athletes eager to hone their skating skills or to families looking for a fun activity. They are few and far between, often located at such great distances families are hindered from encouraging their children to pursue sports at which they might excel. So, the fact that we have our own facility in the heart of Haymarket makes our community very fortunate.
When it opened in the spring of 2011, the Haymarket Iceplex was so well received by the community that within three years the owners realized it needed to be expanded. Its one sheet of ice and limited viewing area could in no way accommodate the many sports and customers flocking to the facility. Thus, over the course of 2016, it was renovated to include a second sheet of ice, formal lobby, additional locker rooms and bathrooms, and a second floor. Six years after its debut, in November 2017, the new, improved Iceplex celebrated its enhancements with a ribbon cutting and the rest, as they say, is history.
The exciting new features of the facility have allowed more events to be offered to the growing number of families who have gained their footing on the ice. Public skating times, stick-and-shoot sessions, and freestyle sessions are now more readily available, and groups can take advantage of earlier playing times so games don’t finish as late in the evening.
Because there’s such a wonderful mix of people in our community, people from all over the world with different perspectives and experiences, it’s not surprising that some see the Iceplex as an extension of a childhood activity and others as a unique opportunity to try a new sport.
The Whittaker family, consisting of mom, BethAnn, her husband and four kids, age 2-7, are frequent fliers at the Haymarket Iceplex. Dad participates in the adult hockey league as an outlet for his high-stress career. And because his childhood in Alaska included playing hockey, the sport is also nostalgic for him and plays a role in his social life. BethAnn says his hockey buddies are basically family.
Their oldest daughter, Lucy, seeks out any experience that is unique and her reserved personality revels in the fact that she can wear a helmet and bulky pads and escape relatively unnoticed. That is, until you see her ponytail sticking out of the back. Lucy’s not the only girl out there, of course, and her participation in the sport has allowed her to form a special bond with her dad.
Although Olive, age 5, was put on skates as soon as she could walk, she is very clear about the fact that she is not a hockey fan. This tiny aspiring figure skater, who expressed an interest in classes after watching the ice dancing in the winter Olympics, would much rather wear fancy velvet dresses and white boots while she masters her jumps and spins.
With busy family schedules, it may seem like participation in these sports would be overwhelming. But BethAnn says the Haymarket Iceplex arranges activities in a manner that’s conducive to family life. Dad’s games are usually later in the evening and rarely interfere with other things. The stick-and-shoot and public skate sessions also offer more opportunities for kids to practice. Asked what advice this ice-loving family would give to those yet to try skating sports and the Haymarket Iceplex, BethAnn suggests signing interested kids up for the “Try Hockey for Free” program. Here kids 6-10 can borrow gear to try out the sport before moms and dads must make an investment.
And what if they like it?
BethAnn says to get them on the ice as much as possible. “Never underestimate the importance of ice time. The more ice time they get, the better. Putting on a bunch of heavy gear won’t be fun unless they’re comfortable out there, and family time at a public skate session is a great place to start…it’s fun for everyone. Bring a bike helmet for the little ones!”Of course, this is just the experience of one local family who’s made great memories at the Haymarket Iceplex. You never know what it could do for you and your kids. Stop in, strap on some skates, and try it out. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll watch your little one and sweet Olive Whittaker in the winter Olympics.