Wearing a Pittsburgh Penguins shirt and eager to see the newest professional hockey club in the city get started at the home opener Oct. 24, Nick Gehr couldn't wait to see the Williamsport Outlaws during a socializer the club owners and coach held Thursday night.
"I'm going to be at the home opener," said Gehr, 28, of the city before a red ribbon was cut outside the Outlaws administrative office in the 300 block of Pine Street. That was followed by a party atmosphere at the Holiday Inn Express, with giveaways and games, but no hockey players.
The question remains, will spectators be willing to spend their money and a couple of hours bundled up, potentially in cold or frigid conditions, to watch hockey outdoors? That is a potential scenario, as most of the season's home games are scheduled in the fall and early winter months, according to Chris Firriollo, head coach and president of the club.
Josephine Latini, of CA Reed Party Supplies Store, plays a dice game with Outlaws owner Kristin Rooney during a V.I.P. party Thursday night at the Holiday Inn for the Williamsport Outlaws.
If there were any doubts about who might be willing to sit in the cold to watch hockey under the open sky, Melissa A. Rowse and Dr. Robert "Bob" Fredrickson answered it.
"I think it's the ambiance and atmosphere," said Rowse. "I'm from Pennsylvania. I enjoy the cold."
For those who feel they might be chilled, she suggested bringing "hot warmers."
"It's been a long time ... we wanted an ice rink," said Fredrickson, a dentist.
As someone with a medical background, the Sun-Gazette posed the cold exposure question to him.
"If they don't dress right the first time, they will do it the second," he said, flashing a smile.
Josephine "Josie" Latini said she'd rather have the cold weather. "Colder the better," she said.
The ice rink is to be constructed at Bowman Field, home during the spring and summer to the Williamsport Crosscutters baseball team. During the fall and winter, Airmen Pond at Bowman Field will be open for public ice skating when it is not needed by the hockey team.
In fact, the hockey team said it plans to use the rink about 15 percent of the time and the public skating will take up a majority of the fall and winter.
The one-season experiment supported by Mayor Gabriel J. Campana is a temporary solution as Campana acts as facilitator and attempts to find a buyer or developer to purchase the YMCA Pickelner Arena on Elmira Street and expand and retrofit that facility into a civic arena with ice.
The Syracuse Junior Hockey League, a non-profit organization that is overseeing construction of the ice rink, is pushing for youth involvement in ice sports.
Ann Baker, whose daughter plays field hockey as a sophomore at Muncy High School, is anticipating watching professional hockey, especially a club that was last year's champions of the Federal Hockey League. She sees the potential for local colleges and high schools to start up hockey teams or ice skating clubs.