NHL Reports: Clinton–Hockeyville 2018

HOCKEYVILLE USA

Blue Jackets, Sabres enjoy Hockeyville USA experience

Thank Clinton community for great atmosphere, memorable moments

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

 12:18 AM

CLINTON, N.Y. — It may have been a preseason game, but you wouldn’t have known that by the atmosphere at Clinton Arena on Tuesday.

The majority of the crowd were cheering for the Buffalo Sabres, with Buffalo three hours west of Clinton.

“When you come out here and you do get out here and you see what it means to the people and the community … we are very fortunate to be a part of that,” Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said following a 4-2 win. “I’m glad we are here.”

 

[RELATED: Blue Jackets defeat Sabres at Kraft Hockeyville USA | Complete Kraft Hockeyville USA coverage]

 

There were more than 1,700 fans at Clinton Arena for the fourth annual Kraft Hockeyville USA game. Clinton beat out hundreds of entries to be named a top four finalist before winning an online vote. Clinton received $150,000 in renovations for the arena.

The community had numerous festivities leading up to the game, including a visit from the Stanley Cup.

“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the children’s faces when the players show up in their hometown,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said. “It’s a testament to our game to see the support that we had this morning at Clinton Arena.

“Most people may not have known about these little communities and their passion for hockey, but we did.”

Jackets, Sabres meet Clinton fans

  • 01:54 • September 25th, 2018

For players like Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian, who grew up three hours away in Massena, New York, the game was especially meaningful.

“If this was around when I was a kid growing up, I think it would be something that I would obviously want to be at,” Bogosian said. “It’s great that the NHL puts this on. I played a lot against Clinton growing up. I never played in this rink, but I played against their minor hockey team growing up so it’s pretty cool being here.”

Blue Jackets forward Anthony Duclair had a goal and an assist and was energized by the crowd.

“Coming off the bus [before the morning skate], to see the kids and how excited they are, I’m sure they were happy to miss school today, but it was a great atmosphere and I thank the city of Clinton for having us.”

Duclair’s slick power-play goal

  • 00:44 • September 25th, 2018

Sabres coach Phil Housley was very appreciative of being a part of the event.

“It brought back lots of flashbacks from our youth,” Housley said. “I just want to thank the Clinton community. Great atmosphere and turnout. Great support.”

The crowd had a lot to cheer about during a four-goal second period.

“It was fun, for sure,” said Blue Jackets defenseman Adam Clendening, who scored a goal. “The crowd was going at all times. It helps when you have kids around. You see how much they love the game in this area. It was definitely fun for us as older guys who have been through that.”

Clendening’s one-time goal

  • 00:40 • September 25th, 2018

After the game, players saluted the fans at center ice before giving them their jerseys.

“For us as the Western New York team, I think it’s cool to be able to come here and play in front of them,” said Sabres center Jack Eichel, who also played at the 2016 Kraft Hockeyville in Marquette, Michigan. “We know they were excited to have us here. Obviously they filled the stands. It’s unfortunate that we lost. I thought the overall experience, there was a lot to take from it. This is our second one doing it.”

Added Commissioner Bettman: “This is a truly unique experience in professional sports, taking our game to a small community rink where people will have the most unthinkable experience they could ever have.”

GAME RECAP

Blue Jackets defeat Sabres at Kraft Hockeyville USA

Panarin has goal, two assists for Columbus; Dahlin gets first point for Buffalo

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

 September 25th, 2018

CLINTON, N.Y. — Artemi Panarin had three points for the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 4-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres at Kraft Hockeyville USA on Tuesday.

HOCKEYVILLE USA

Hockeyville Hub: USA, Day 4

Dahlin, Eichel, Skinner, Panarin, Jones among those playing for Sabres, Blue Jackets in preseason game

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

 September 25th, 2018

Kraft Hockeyville USA, now in its fourth year, awards one winning community in the United States a once-in-a-lifetime experience for hockey fans. This year, Clinton, New York, and Clinton Arena were selected as the winner after an online vote. The rink will receive $150,000 in upgrades, and there will be festivities and player appearances prior to the Buffalo Sabres hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets in a nationally televised preseason game at Clinton Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN). NHL.com staff writer David Satriano is in Clinton to provide all the sights, sounds, highlights and news leading up to the game:

 

Tuesday
Dahlin in lineup for Sabres

Rasmus Dahlin is expected to be in the lineup for the Sabres.

The defenseman, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, will get to showcase his talents in front of the crowd at Clinton Arena.

The Sabres announced their full lineup on Tuesday morning prior to arriving. Joining Dahlin were defenseman Zach Bogosian and forwards Patrik BerglundCasey Mittelstadt, and Kyle Okposo.

Buffalo said Monday that center Jack Eichel and forwards Sam Reinhart and Jeff Skinner would be in the lineup.

Here is the projected lineup for the Sabres:

 

Tortorella no stranger to Clinton

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella is familiar with the town of Clinton.

Tortorella played in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League from 1982-86 and coached in the ACHL from 1986-88. He has fond memories of playing in the Utica Memorial Auditorium, the home of the Mohawk Valley Comets (formerly the Clinton Comets).

“That’s a long time ago. I know I came [to Clinton Arena] at one point in time to practice,” Tortorella said after the morning skate. “When I got off the bus today, a guy that I played against gave me an article. I played in that league for 6-7 years. That is where you start and I was having a blast playing there. Never knew where I was going to end up, and now I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in the game.”

Tortorella played in the ACHL for Hampton, Erie and Virginia, increasing his goals and points totals in each season, finishing with 37 goals and 96 points in 1985-86. He then coached Virginia to a 36-19-3 record and a league championship in 1986-87, defeating Mohawk Valley in seven games in the final.

“I bounced around in that league but I tell you, I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” he said. “I met a lot of good friends that I still have because of that. It gave me an opportunity to start coaching. When I left Virginia, the owner asked me if I wanted to coach, and that’s how I started coaching.

“It brings back memories I’m sure for a lot of guys as far as how they started. We can’t forget that as far as what this game is about, especially the kids. That’s what’s so enjoyable about this. That’s the neat part about this; you never know what is going to happen. We are fortunate we are a part of it.”

 

Q&A with players, pep rally

Following the morning skates, Jeremy Roenick led a question-and-answer session with Blue Jackets forwards Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson, and Sabres forward Kyle Okposo and defenseman Zach Bogosian. Children from the local schools submitted questions and several of them were able to ask the players their questions on the ice.

Students also were asked last week and during the fan fest on Saturday to express what Kraft Hockeyville means to them by submitting drawings. Each one was hung up outside of the Blue Jackets and Sabres locker rooms so the players could see them when they walked by.

Once that ended, fans cleared the rink so that the final touches could be placed on Clinton Arena in time for the game.

The town celebrated being named the fourth Kraft Hockeyville USA winner with a pep rally at Clinton Central School.

 

Blue Jackets, Sabres enjoy Clinton Arena atmosphere

The Blue Jackets and Sabres arrived at Clinton Arena to a raucous crowd that turned out despite a downpour. Fans took pictures and got autographs as the players walked by.

The Blue Jackets skated first, to the thrill of the crowd, before the Sabres, the home team, took the ice to cheers.

Mike Orsino on Clinton Arena

  • 01:00 • September 24th, 2018

“It’s been awesome,” Columbus defenseman Seth Jones said. “We had a good pregame skate. When we got here on the bus, everyone was lined up and we got to sign autographs and everything for the kids … it was a great turnout.

“This definitely takes you back to the early days when you started playing and learning about the game.”

Columbus forward Boone Jenner wasn’t taking the experience for granted.

“I’ve never been a part of something like this. Playing in a little town like this, you can see how passionate they are,” Jenner said. “We got off the bus and quite a big crowd there. It’s quite the experience for us as players to do this stuff.”

Sabres defenseman Zach Bogosian grew up three hours north of Clinton in Massena, New York.

“If this was around when I was a kid growing up, I think it would be something that I would obviously want to be at,” he said. “It’s great that the NHL puts this on.

“I played a lot against Clinton growing up. I never played in this rink, but I played against their minor hockey team growing up so it’s pretty cool being here.”

HOCKEYVILLE USA

Hockeyville Hub: USA, Day 3

Panarin, Jones, Eichel, Skinner among those playing for Blue Jackets, Sabres in preseason game

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

 10:14 PM

Kraft Hockeyville USA, now in its fourth year, awards one winning community in the United States a once-in-a-lifetime experience for hockey fans. This year, Clinton, New York, and Clinton Arena were selected as the winner after an online vote. The rink will receive $150,000 in upgrades, and there will be festivities and player appearances prior to the Buffalo Sabres hosting the Columbus Blue Jackets in a nationally televised preseason game at Clinton Arena on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN). NHL.com staff writer David Satriano is in Clinton to provide all the sights, sounds, highlights and news leading up to the game:

 

Monday
Roenick aids auction for Clinton Arena

Jeremy Roenick did his part to make sure Clinton Arena thrives long after Kraft Hockeyville is over.

Roenick, a forward who played 20 seasons in the NHL and scored 513 goals, led an auction at nearby Hamilton College. Signed NHL merchandise was among the items for bidding.

“What we try to do with Kraft Hockeyville, the NHL, NBC and the NHL Players’ Association is we try to celebrate hockey and the game and make it better for the kids growing up, try to introduce hockey to as many kids as we possibly can because there is no question that hockey is the greatest sport in the world,” Roenick said.

Having covered each of the previous three Kraft Hockeyville USA games, Roenick said he never gets tired of the event.

“I do a lot of events throughout my season,” he said. “I’m on the road 290 days this year. But so far, Clinton has been the best Kraft Hockeyville event that I have been to.”

Roenick helped auction off a signed picture of Sage Rink, the hockey arena at Hamilton College, which was signed by himself as well as members of the Clinton Comets. To sweeten the pot, he said the winner would also get two tickets to a Stanley Cup Final game this season. The photo sold for over $2,000, all of which will go toward Clinton Arena.

“Your kids of Clinton are going to get a special treat [Tuesday] when they can actually talk to some of those guys on television, and when they talk to them, they are going to remember it forever,” said Roenick, who will be with NBCSN during the broadcast of the game. “The guys care about their community, they care about their team and they care about the people who come to watch it.

“These kids are going to have looks on their faces that you’ve never seen before.”

 

Panarin, Eichel on rosters for Blue Jackets, Sabres

Artemi Panarin and Jack Eichel are among the notable names expected to play for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres at Clinton Arena on Tuesday.

Blue Jackets forwards Anthony Duclair and Boone Jenner, and defenseman Seth Jones, are also traveling to Clinton.

Brian Hedger

@JacketsInsider

Another version of the playing roster vs in Clinton, N.Y. tomorrow.

Eichel will center Buffalo’s first line with Jeff Skinner and Sam Reinhart.

“They’ve been really good together and they’ll be together tomorrow,” coach Phil Housley told the Sabres website.

Skinner, Reinhart (goal) and Eichel (assist) each played in Kraft Hockeyville in Marquette, Michigan in 2016, a 2-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes. Skinner was with the Hurricanes at the time; he was traded to the Sabres on Aug. 2.

“This is going to be fun tomorrow,” said Housley, who played for the Sabres from 1982-90. “It’ll be a packed house, which is great for the atmosphere.”

Split photo of newly acquired Buffalo Sabres forward Jeff Skinner with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart.

 

Housley recalls youth hockey experience

Housley is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, but long before he played in the NHL, he got his start at rinks in his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota.

“It was great ice,” Housley said of the city’s high school rink. “I used to get up early in the morning, my mom used to drop me off at 7-8 a.m., then the rest of the guys would come. But every Saturday and Sunday morning, that was the ice to be on. It was great to be out there by myself until my buddies would come.”

Housley, who spent eight of his 21 NHL seasons with the Sabres, said the importance of hockey in the United States wasn’t lost on him, and it will be reflected in Buffalo’s roster for the game Tuesday.

“I’ll try to get as many U.S. guys into that game because obviously it’s a Kraft Hockeyville USA game,” Housley said. “But in another way, we are trying to look at combinations. We didn’t want to have too many guys play back to back, but there will be some guys playing back to back.”

The Sabres have a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday.

“Just talking to our guys, we certainly want to enjoy it,” Housley said. “It’s going to be a great atmosphere there, even at the pregame skate. Obviously we have business to take care of, but I just told the guys, enjoy the moment. It’s great to be part of such a big occasion, especially with U.S. hockey.

 

Former Mohawk Valley player shares memories of Tortorella

Dave Litz was born in Clinton and played for the Mohawk Valley (formerly Clinton) Comets in 1985-86. He also played against Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, who is expected here when Columbus arrives Tuesday.

“He definitely coaches the way he played,” Litz said. “He was super-high energy, sacrificed everything and blocked shots, could score, and fight. He did it all. He was like an old-school guy and I’m sure that’s what he demands out of his players to give 100 percent on every shift.”

Litz, who now works for a moving company, had a photocopy of a newspaper article at his desk from when he played against Tortorella during the 1985-86 season. Litz and Mohawk Valley lost 5-2 to Tortorella and Virginia at the Utica Memorial Auditorium; Tortorella had a hat trick.

When asked about his game that night Tortorella said in the article, “The puck was just there.”

Litz coached youth hockey and became an assistant at Clinton High School in 1999 before taking over as coach in 2001. His teams won three Section III titles (2004-07) and back-to-back Division II state titles (2005, ’06), going 26-1-3 each season.

“I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in Clinton with such a great hockey tradition,” he said. “Also just as fortunate to play professional hockey in the minors in the [Atlantic Coast Hockey League] and later in the ECHL.

“After my playing days, I came back to Clinton and started coaching youth hockey, then got the opportunity to coach the high school team, winning back-to-back state championships in 2005 and 2006. To give back to your community and home town is a special feeling. It’s an honor to be a part of a rich hockey tradition in such a small town.”

 

Clinton Arena gets final touches

With the red-carpet arrivals for the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres less than 24 hours away and the preseason game to follow Tuesday, the final touches are being put on Clinton Arena.

The arena, which seats about 2,000, used the $150,000 grand prize money to fix the roof and lighting, provide better netting around the entire arena and upgrade the locker rooms, among other things. The dasher boards were also placed around the rink late Sunday.

There will be a fundraising dinner at Hamilton College on Monday, with items auctioned off to raise money for the Clinton community. Members of the Clinton Comets, who played at Clinton Arena from 1949-1973 before moving to nearby Utica Memorial Auditorium from 1973-77, will also be on hand. Former NHL player Jeremy Roenick will emcee the event.

A general view of the Clinton Arena in a game during the NHL Kraft Hockeyville USA on September 23, 2018 in Clinton, New York. A preseason NHL game will be played on September 25, 2018 between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres.

 

Clinton celebrates 100 years of hockey

Hockey was introduced to Clinton in February 1918 when Albert Prettyman, the athletic director at Hamilton College, iced over a tennis court for the first game in the area.

To celebrate 100 years of hockey in Clinton, the website ThankYouAlbertPrettyman.com was launched explain Prettyman’s story and the growth of the game here in the past century. There was a weekend-long celebration February 8-11 this year that coincided nicely with the town’s Kraft Hockeyville USA entry.

The site includes rosters from teams over the years, player profiles and memories, and a look back at each decade of hockey in Clinton. It also allows fans to submit and share their hockey memories.

Prettyman also coached the United States to the bronze medal at the 1936 Bavaria Olympics.

 

Rink manager thankful for support, renovations

Mike Orsino has worked at Clinton Arena for more than 40 years and is excited to see the rink get the upgrades it needs.

“I was hired in 1971, so I have been here since the old Comet days,” he said. “It’s truly awesome. It’s been quite a process. It’s been a very busy summer getting things ready, but the future looks bright for the Clinton Arena.”

The Comets played in several leagues, including the Eastern Hockey League and North American Hockey League, and received support from a notable hockey figure during the Kraft Hockeyville USA nomination process.

“After we were nominated, Stan Fischler gave us a very high recommendation on the NHL Network and I think that was the shot in the arm that we needed to help catapult us to the final four,” Orsino said. “Then it was a voting process. I got calls from people from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida, people that had voted for us that were in the area years ago and came back.”

Orsino was proud of all the hard work done by his staff, and everyone at Kraft and the NHL, and is looking forward to Tuesday.

“It’s been quite a ride and I’m waiting for the game tomorrow,” he said. “It will be quite a treat for everybody.”

 

Sunday
DOP meets with Clinton community leaders

Clinton mayor John Crossley, along with several town officials, attended a Declaration of Principles dinner at Alteri’s restaurant. Rob Wooley, director of legislative affairs, public policy and partnership development for the NHL, gave a presentation on the DOP and its mission statement. The DOP involves several key ideologies which aim to re-educate hockey at every level and create a positive family experience while promoting hockey for everyone.

“Our objective is moving forward in terms of growing our game and building more vibrant communities through hockey, and certainly we’ve seen that throughout hockey communities throughout the country thanks to Kraft Hockeyville,” Wooley said.

The objective was to educate the community on the importance of the DOP while also listening to ideas and thoughts of the community members.

“We had a nice robust discussion with Mayor Crossley on how hockey and youth sports play a part in the community,” Wooley said. “It’s really a discussion about how hockey and youth sports in general plays a major role in building a vibrant community, and Mayor Crossley has expressed significant interest in learning more about how the declaration of principles can serve as a bedrock platform for their effort to do that.”

Although Clinton Arena was renovated with the winnings from Kraft Hockeyville USA, the mission of the DOP is to make sure hockey continues to grow in the area long after the weekend celebration is over.

“The objective is to put less focus on elite play and more emphasis on providing hockey programs where kids can just go out and have fun with their friends,” Wooley said. “It’s not about winning and losing and being competitive.

“The Clinton community, the NHL, Kraft and the NHL Players’ Association are all aligned on the future of hockey in Clinton.”

 

Stanley Cup visits Clinton

The Stanley Cup made its first stop at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, where the men’s and women’s hockey teams got to see hockey’s ultimate prize.

The Cup also made a surprise visit at the home of Amy Prenee, whose husband was on the local organizing committee before he died in June. The next stop was an assisted living home before heading to Clinton Arena, where hundreds lined up for a chance to see it and take a picture.

Jeremy, a 27-year-old fan who declined to give his last name, arrived three-and-a-half hours early and was first in line.

“I would’ve camped out overnight if that’s what it took,” he said. “I’m from just outside of Clinton and I’ve lived here all my life. I was born a hockey fan, always.

“I went bananas just like everyone else in the community. There is so much representation here in the hockey community. Between the game, the Stanley Cup presentation, all the support of the community, it’s amazing.”

Stanley Cup visits Clinton, NY

  • 01:59 • September 23rd, 2018

 

Palmieri happy to see hometown win Hockeyville

Nick Palmieri was born in Clinton and made it to the NHL. He’s hoping not to be the last person to make that claim.

“This is where I first played hockey and first learned to skate,” the 29-year-old retired forward said at Clinton Arena during a Stanley Cup visit and community skate Sunday.

“I hope that they can see me and see someone that grew up in the same town that they are growing up in and was able to play in the NHL. I think the fact that these kids are going to be able to see an NHL preseason game in the arena that they play in is pretty amazing. I know if I was a kid, I would be extremely excited.”

Palmieri was chosen by the New Jersey Devils in the third round (No. 79) of the 2007 NHL Draft. He had 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 87 games with the Devils and Minnesota Wild.

He hopes winning Kraft Hockeyville would spur another generation of hockey players in Clinton and the surrounding towns.

“I think it’s things that are going to hopefully grow the game in the area,” Palmieri said. “When I was a kid growing up, every kid I went to school with played hockey for the most part and I don’t think the interest is there like it used to be but if this doesn’t spark some interest, I don’t know what else they could do around here to get more people interested in the game. It’s exciting to have that level of competition in this arena.”

As soon as Clinton was named a top four finalist, Palmieri did his part to get the community to vote.

“I knew it was something that the arena needed as far as the renovations,” he said. “I think they’ve done a tremendous job with the renovations that they’ve done.”

 

Clinton mayor grateful for support

John Crossley, the mayor of Clinton, was shocked when his community was named a top four finalist for Kraft Hockeyville USA. But once that happened, he made sure to do everything he could and get everyone in the community to vote for Clinton Arena to host the once-in-a-lifetime event.

“There was a lot of publicity out there to vote for the award,” Crossley said. “That’s when I became involved. Once we won, we were so excited, I created a parade throughout the village announcing that we were the winner. We have been meeting weekly ever since.”

Crossley grew up in the area and mentioned Clinton’s deep hockey roots.

“Back in the 1950s and ’60s, we had our own professional hockey team here called the Clinton Comets, and at that point, we were known as the smallest hockey town in the North American content,” Crossley said. “So we have grown up with hockey. When anybody thinks of Clinton, they think of hockey. We’ve had tremendous youth hockey and high school programs, and we are very proud of our heritage of hockey.”

Crossley was overjoyed with the support and everything that has been done to improve the rink since Clinton won Kraft Hockeyville USA in April.

“The arena has never looked better,” he said. “I grew up with that arena, so it really looks nice now. The crew has done a great job painting and cleaning, and the NHL and Kraft have helped a lot with everything as well. Clinton Arena is ready for the game on Tuesday.”

Crossley was present at the fan fair Saturday, which raised money from food and merchandise to go toward the youth hockey programs.

“I think it’s going to be wonderful to see the community rally around all the festivities,” he said. “I’m particularly happy for all the kids in the school who will have the opportunity to maybe even see and meet the players when the go through the red carpet on Tuesday.

“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the village and town to highlight its hockey heritage; hockey has been a part of Clinton for 100 years.”

Cup visits Hamilton College

  • 00:59 • September 23rd, 2018

 

Saturday

 

May, Shelley among NHL alumni at fan fest

Brad May and Jody Shelley were among the NHL alumni present during a celebration in Clinton. Each has a connection with one of the teams participating in the game Tuesday: May spent seven seasons with the Sabres (1991-98) and Shelly spent seven seasons with the Blue Jackets (1991-98).

“Being invited to these things, I don’t take it for granted, it’s a lot of fun,” said May, a forward who played in the NHL from 1991-2010. “It’s about the next generation and all these kids, and hopefully we can inspire some of these young guys and young girls.”

May, who does television work for the Vegas Golden Knights, said it brought him back to his childhood.

“I remember meeting [NHL player Keith Acton] and aspiring and dreaming to be him and play against him as a kid,” May said. “I think that’s what these events are about. It can light a spark under some kids.”

CLINTON, NY - SEPTEMBER 22: NHL Alumni Brad May signs autographs at the Kraft Hockeyville Community Celebration during the NHL Kraft Hockeyville USA on September 22, 2018 in Clinton, New York. A preseason NHL game will be played on September 25, 2018 between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

Shelley, who is the color commentator for Blue Jackets telecasts, had heard about Kraft Hockeyville but never experienced it until Saturday.

“It’s pretty spectacular that this small town in New York got this honor,” said Shelley, who spent 12 seasons in the NHL as a forward from 2000-13 said. “You know it’s special but until you get here and see it, you don’t realize how big of a deal is it. I know the Blue Jackets organization is excited to be a part of this. They’ll get that chance to see hockey players up close.”

Shelley played for the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL in 1999-00. Johnstown was the inaugural Kraft Hockeyville USA winner in 2015.

“It looked amazing,” he said. “So I know what it’s like from afar. Hearing those stories was one thing but being here and experiencing it is another.

“This rejuvenates the hockey community around the biggest rink in town. There are a lot of hockey teams around this area, in Syracuse and Utica (American Hockey League) but this does a lot for the hockey community in New York.”

Clinton Welcomes Hockeyville

  • 01:58 • September 22nd, 2018

 

Youth coach thrilled with Kraft Hockeyville win

Clinton will benefit greatly from winning the title of Kraft Hockeyville USA, especially its youth hockey programs.

“My kids and their kids can possibly carry on this tradition for 100 years,” Jim O’Brien, a youth hockey coach in Clinton said.

Although he hasn’t yet seen the upgrades to the arena, O’Brien said he knows it will be a big improvement.

“The investments that went back into the rink were much needed,” O’Brien said. “Who knows what would have happened if we didn’t get this opportunity from the NHL and Kraft? The area is kind of reinventing itself and the community is kind of reestablishing itself as the father of hockey in the Mohawk Valley.”

O’Brien played hockey growing up and said celebrating 100 years of hockey in Clinton timed nicely with the Hockeyville bid.

“We never thought we would win,” he said. “However, with the amount of effort that was put in by the community, I knew we were well prepared to showcase what this town was about, with the Clinton Comets, and 100 years of hockey in Clinton, New York. This community is huge as far as supporting hockey and anything hockey related.”

CLINTON, NY - SEPTEMBER 22: Young hockey fans participate in the festivities at the Kraft Hockeyville Community Celebration during the NHL Kraft Hockeyville USA on September 22, 2018 in Clinton, New York. A preseason NHL game will be played on September 25, 2018 between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

Sestito has fond Hockeyville memories

Tom Sestito knows firsthand how much Kraft Hockeyville means to the winning community.

The 30-year-old forward, who retired from the NHL after the 2016-17 season, played at two of the previous three Kraft Hockeyville USA games in 2015 (Johnstown, Pa.) and 2017 (Cranberry, Pa.) as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“It was a neat experience playing in those games, seeing how the communities come together for the event,” Sestito said.

Sestito, who is from nearby Rome, N.Y., played with Utica in the AHL, not far from Clinton. He signed autographs and took pictures at the fan fest.

“It’s nice to meet kids and do something nice for the community, especially being somewhere close to where I grew up,” he said. “I saw how it was like having played in two of these and it’s always a neat experience.”

CLINTON, NY - SEPTEMBER 22: NHL Alumni Tom Sestito signs autographs at the Kraft Hockeyville Community Celebration during the NHL Kraft Hockeyville USA on September 22, 2018 in Clinton, New York. A preseason NHL game will be played on September 25, 2018 between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

Clinton ready for celebration

The Hockeyville USA celebration began in the morning at the Lutheran Care Church in Clinton, where Kraft donated products to benefit the Food Pantry and hosted a pancake breakfast.

Later in the afternoon, there will be a community celebration at the Village Green and Park Row with thousands expected to attend. There will be many activities for kids and parents, including an autograph and question-and-answer session with NHL alumni including Jody Shelley, a forward who played with the Blue Jackets from 2000-08, and now serves as a color commentator for Columbus telecasts, and Brad May, a forward who played with the Sabres from 1991-98. The mayor of Clinton, John Crossley, will also be on hand, selling Kraft Hockeyville merchandise to raise money for the community.

The Kraft Hockeyville Trophy will also be in attendance as will an exhibit dedicated to 100 years of hockey in Clinton. There will be performances from local musicians as well.

The village fair will take place a few minutes from Clinton Arena, which has been a part of the community since 1948-49. It was rebuilt in 1954 following a fire and was named to the National Historic Register in 2010.

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Kraft Hockeyville US@HockeyvilleUSA

Clinton, NY celebrated their victory as Kraft 2018. Community Spirit at 💯

 

Restaurant owner shows love for hockey

Alteri’s restaurant has been a staple in Clinton since 1953 and has been known as the hockey spot in town since then.

Third-generation owner Fran Alteri, whose family moved to Clinton from Utica, has showcased their love of hockey by decorating all corners of the restaurant with memorabilia, including from the American Hockey League (with Utica and Syracuse, two AHL towns, not far away), the NHL (Buffalo Sabres), and the Clinton Comets, who played here from 1927-77 in various leagues.

“What the NHL has done has put in a big breath of fresh air for us, to help remodel the arena, which looks incredible,” Alteri said. “It’s also promoted the game, so now we have little kids that want to play. Let them go as far as they want to go. If their aspiration is to be an NHL player or a high school player, let’s give them the opportunity to do that, which the NHL and Kraft have done.”

Alteri played hockey growing up and coached the local high school team to two state championships as an assistant but left because of time commitments with the restaurant.

“When my grandparents came to town, none of the elder generation ever skated, but someone told my mother, ‘Make sure your kids learn to skate, because if you are going to live in Clinton you’re going to have to know how to skate.’ If you lived here, there was nothing else to do, so you just fell in love with hockey.”

 

Community movie night

The day’s festivities came to an end with a movie night hosted by the Clinton fire department at Clinton Central School. The hockey movie “Miracle” was shown, and all money raised from refreshment sales was given to the fire department.

Sunday will be another big day in Clinton with the Stanley Cup making several appearances before a public viewing at Clinton Arena from noon-4 p.m. Clinton Central alumni will play two, two-period hockey games against Clinton Hamilton college players and members of the Clinton figure skating club.

HOCKEYVILLE USA

Kraft Hockeyville USA, set for Clinton, N.Y., gets praise from McGuire

Sabres, Blue Jackets to play preseason game at historic arena

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

 September 21st, 2018

CLINTON, N.Y. — Pierre McGuire has covered numerous events as an NBC Sports hockey commentator, including the Stanley Cup Playoffs, NHL All-Star Games and Winter Classic games, but he said one of his favorites is the annual Kraft Hockeyville USA game.

In its fourth year in the United States, Kraft Hockeyville, which started in Canada in 2006, has awarded more than 80 communities more than $4 million in rink upgrades. Clinton Arena, located about 50 miles east of Syracuse, New York, was the 2018 winner.

“It’s not just hockey; it’s what it does for the community after the hockey is gone,” McGuire said. “They fix the rink, people take a lot of pride in it. It’s a huge effort to actually win Kraft Hockeyville. There are so many positive things to come out of it, but I think more than anything else, it galvanizes a community.

“I’ll never forget when Doc (Emrick) and I walked into Johnstown, Pennsylvania, (Kraft Hockeyville USA winner in 2015) the reaction the people had. Then Marquette, Michigan (in 2016) was tremendous.”

The Rostraver Ice Garden in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, was the winning community in 2017.

Clinton was named a top four finalist this year and won the title in an online vote. It received $150,000 for upgrades for Clinton Arena, which will host a preseason game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

“I think both parties, the NHL and Kraft, should be saluted,” McGuire said. “The NHL has been phenomenal with making the game in non-traditional markets, making it easier for underprivileged kids to play. It’s not a cheap sport, we all know that. On all fronts, I am proud to be part of the NHL community just because of the give back. Kraft really does care about the community that they are involved in.”

Clinton Welcomes Hockeyville

  • 01:58 • September 22nd, 2018

McGuire said the Sabres, who finished last in the NHL last season, are much improved and can make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, something they haven’t done since 2010-11.

“The one thing that is exciting about Buffalo is they should be one of the bigger turnaround stories this year,” he said. “I really think they have a chance to have a very good season. Rasmus Dahlin (No. 1 pick in 2018 NHL Draft) is going to be must-see TV. Jack Eichel should have a banner season for them. Alex Nylander has had a phenomenal preseason and they’re really excited about him. There’s a lot of things to like about the Sabres. I think they can be a playoff team this year.”

The Blue Jackets have qualified for the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, and McGuire said he expects them to be a contender again.

“(Coach) John Tortorella and the Columbus Blue Jackets are for real,” he said. “They are really deep on defense, they are very good up front. Pierre-Luc Dubois has a very good chance to be one of the superstar players in the League. I think they are going to be one of the more difficult teams in the Eastern Conference to play against.”

A fire in 1949 ruined Clinton Arena, which was rebuilt from scratch six years later and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. The venue still has many of its original fixtures, but the prize money will go toward improvements on the roof, locker room and seating.

The runner-up, Brandon Valley in Brandon, South Dakota, will receive $30,000 to use toward rink upgrades, and George’s Pond at Hirsch Coliseum in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Memorial Sports Center in Middlebury, Vermont, each will receive $10,000.

< Return to the 2010s

Kraft Hockeyville USA 2018

Celebrate Our Grand Prize Win

Learn More

For more information, contact:
Andrew Burns Hamilton ’78; Clinton High School ’74andrewcburns@yahoo.com
Ted Molloy Hamilton ’78; Hamilton Hockey Captaine.molloy@cox.net.

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