GOLETA, Calif. – From far and near – in flip flops and shorts, in the middle of summer – they come to skate.
Since the only ice rink on the Central Coast opened in October of 2015, it has consistently drawn people to Goleta from as far north as San Luis Obispo, all the way down to the San Fernando Valley.
Adult hockey is the most popular program at Ice in Paradise. There are 24 teams, twice as many as organizers expected when the rink opened. There are games five nights a week.
“Hockey,” 56-year old Joe Goryance said, “is my passion.”
Goryance loves playing so much, he doesn’t mind driving three hours round-trip from Arroyo Grande once a week to suit up for his team, the Brew-Ins. Most weeks he car pools with his teammate Todd Erickson, who makes another weekly trip to Goleta for his 11-year-old son’s travel team.
Asked where he would play if Ice in Paradise weren’t here, Erickson said,
“Well there’s no ice rinks. So originally my son was playing in a roller hockey league in Arroyo Grande and up in San Luis Obispo.”
The oldest of the nearly 300 players in the over-40 league league are in their 70’s. General Manager and adult league player Larry Bruyere isn’t quite there yet.
“Well I’m sore before I play, but that’s another story,” Bruyere said. “I’m 63. I think hockey is one of those sports that allows people to play all their lives. You’re gliding out there, you’re not pounding.”
Youth hockey has been a success as well. The rink’s high school team, the Santa Barbara Royals, already has a championship. They’re part of the next generation of California home grown hockey players who will one day join the older group made up largely of transplants from cold weather areas.
“It’s what I grew up doing in Minnesota,” Goryance said.
Bruyere says Ice in Paradise – which operates as a non-profit – is the only full-sized ice rink along the coast from Thousand Oaks to San Jose.
“The community has embraced the facility,” Bruyere said. “We’ve become the recreation facility for the Goleta area and beyond. I think we picked a good spot.”
There is also public skating everyday. For more information: http://iceinparadise.org/