Youth hockey revival at
Clearwater Ice Arena
By STEVE LEE
Editor, Florida Hockey Life
Youth hockey parcipaon at the learwater ce Arena had
been somewhat sparse in recent years, which is a bit ironic
considering that the building’s forebearer Sunblades
ce Arena at the ubin cot enter, built in 1986 once housed
the rst-ever youth and adult hockey programs in the Tampa ay
Apparently, mes have changed.
n fact, youth hockey is thriving at an arena where the Tampa
ay Lightning inially pracced when they debuted as a 1992
Naonal Hockey League epansion team. t also is where the inaugural
University of South Florida hockey team played and prac-
“The program was about 22 players and now it’s over 100,”
said immy es, youth hockey director at the learwater facility.
“We just brought it back. We gave kids ice me and it was just
being there and helping families along. Hockey is coming back
over here at learwater.”
The numbers don’t lie. n just eight months, the mites
8-and-under program has increased to 3 players from eight
when es took the job last anuary. ack then, there were only
14 players who were combined on one team of suirts 10U and
pee wees 12U. Those two divisions are sll combined, only now
there are three teams.
Moreover, there now are two combined bantamsmidgets
suads for ages 13-1. When es arrived there were no players
in that category.
“The big thing is we have all the age groups,” es said. “t
wasn’t just me. t was the whole sta.”
eneral manager Tom Lindemuth and Al Nicoll, hockey director
at the learwater arena as well as Tampa ay Skang Academy
in ldsmar, heaped praise on es for the job he’s done in
such a short me. n anuary, es will celebrate his one-year
anniversary at the facility.
“immy’s done a phenomenal job,” said Nicoll, who has overseen
the hockey program at the learwater rink for the past nine
“im is doing a tremendous job,” Lindemuth said. “He’s kind
of doing this from scratch. He’s here more than he’s home; he
just likes being at the rink.”
A self-described lifelong rink rat, there’s simply nowhere else
es would rather be at this stage of his life “This job, live it.
t’s my passion. always wanted to work at a hockey rink, because
’ve always been a rink rat.”
Lindemuth noted that when it comes to es’ anity for
working with kids that the feelings are reciprocated. The general
manager, having previously run the Flames youth program at the
ice rink in Ellenton, is appreciave of es’ eorts with the young
players as well as his passion for the sport.
“The kids like him,” Lindemuth said. “’ve had comments
from parents saying how much aenon he pays to the kids.
nce the parents sense that you care about their kids and
their kids calling him coach im that goes a long way to establishing
es, 32, said being labeled as coach by the kids “is a tle
take great pride in.”
orn and raised in olumbus, hio where he rooted for the
lue ackets in his younger days, es and his brother esse, two
years younger, played on dierent hockey teams while growing
up. They played together at Pickerington High, es being
a senior captain at center while esse was the goaltender as a
freshman with both playing key roles on that school’s rst-ever
Clearwater Ice Arena welcomes players of all skill levels.