When Eric Perrin took over as the director of hockey at the Daytona Ice Arena in February, he thought he might have a little grace period to get acclimated to the job.
However, just a couple weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic struck and Perrin was making decisions he didn’t think he’d have to make.
The Daytona Ice Arena, in South Daytona, Florida, shut down on March 15. But that came with a silver lining for Perrin and his wife, Karen, who is the rink’s hockey administrator.
“It allowed us to really revamp the programs — youth hockey, adults and everything — for Karen to implement guideline procedures for the way that we wanted,” said Perrin, who retired last year after a 21-year professional hockey career. “Obviously, with USA Hockey, I have so many great friends that are part of it that are helping me out, guiding me through what I want to bring here, which is the best way to develop kids and the best way to offer a great place, a fun place to play hockey.”
The Daytona Ice Arena was closed for about eight weeks, opening its doors back up in mid-May.
Youth hockey players were the first ones to return to the ice, conducting small group clinics of about 10 skaters as well as private lessons. The sessions are only a two and a half hour window at night to ease back into it.
“Just to get the kids going a little bit,” Perrin said.
On June 2, Daytona Ice Arena got its adult hockey league going again. The teams were five games into the spring session when the rink had to shut down.
“The adult league players, they’ve been chomping at the bit,” Perrin said. “They’ve been like, ‘When are we starting? When are we starting? We’re ready. We’re ready.’ So, my wife, Karen, sent out a survey asking everyone and we got good feedback, so we decided to go for it. Sure enough, we had enough for teams and to keep it going where we left off.”
Popular public skating, which is offered nearly every day of the week, started back up on June 8.
“People were calling to see if they need to register, do they need to save a spot. At the beginning we said, ‘No. Just come’,” Perrin said. “But the numbers made sense every time. It was never too crowded or where it looked dangerous.”