Grand Blanc council considers limiting hockey on Physicians Park rink

GRAND BLANC — Grand Blanc city officials find themselves in an unusual quandary over the ice rink at Physicians Park.

“For the two years we’ve had the new rink, we’ve always had a sign that says half is for hockey, the other for free skating,” said Department of Public Works Director Matt Wurtz. “Hockey players tend to take it over and it makes other skaters feel uncomfortable. The question is, should we restrict hockey completely? Should we have time limits? What is the enforcement? We’re looking for direction because the existing signage doesn’t seem to do much.”

Mayor Susan Soderstrom pointed out that not all of the hockey players are hogging the ice and preventing others from open skating. In fact, she’s witnessed hockey players helping small children learn to skate.

“I see a lot of people utilizing the rink,” Soderstrom said. “I see a lot of kids playing hockey. I’d hate to see an empty rink. The whole idea is that people use it. We want everyone to be able to enjoy it. I’m not sure of the right way to go about it.”

There are, of course, safety issues to consider. And, there’s a matter of protecting public and private property from damage caused by flying pucks.

Wurtz said errant pucks caused “a couple thousand dollars” worth of damage to the building adjacent to the rink last year. The fence also has sustained damage, and city officials don’t want the same thing to happen to vehicles parked nearby.

Whatever the city council decides, Police Chief Brian Lipe wants it to be enforceable and practical.

“I just want to make sure it has some teeth,” Lipe said. “They’re not breaking any laws. They may be breaking a park rule. If they break the rules, we can tell them stop and that they’re trespassing. But my hope is that we won’t have to become the hockey police. And I hope we’re not ruining a bunch of kids’ days.”

He said hockey is very popular and, “many times, when we go to open the rink in the morning, there are already groups waiting to get on the ice” to play hockey.

As the situation stands, the city council’s public safety committee will consider the options and submit their recommendation. Soderstrom also hopes to discuss it further with Lipe and revisit the topic at the December council meeting.