Melting the Chocolate

There are times in a person's life when events have just become too overwhelming and the only thing left to do is curl into a chair with a large package of chocolate in one (or several) of its many delightful forms. After watching the Hershey Bears lose to the Texas Stars twice in three nights surrounded by excited and boisterous fans in Cedar Park, Texas, the chocolate of choice is a Hershey bar with almonds, tears and sour grapes.

There will be a list of firsts when the Stars and Bears take the ice for game number 3, and most of them are not specifically hockey related. This will be the first time that the Cedar Park Center crews will have 24 hours to removed the floor, seating and stage that have covered the ice serface for the last two weeks. It is unlikely that planning included having the Stars still in the playoff picture this late into June. To make this task more interesting, the daytime highs have been in the mid 90's (mid 30's C) for most of the last month. More heat has been applied to the ice from the standing room only crowds that attended the procession of high school graduations over the weekend.

The Saturday night game in Hershey set an attendance record for the Bears and tonight will establish an attendance record for a game in Cedar Park as the standing room tickets went on sale after the two wins in Pennsylvania. A brief note on attendance figures for American Hockey League teams during this years playoffs, only Manitoba and Hershey (both with twice the Cedar Park capacity) have higher average attendance for their home games. Average attendance will be over 5,000 when the final games have been played. It is also likely that the number of stressed patrons will hit all time highs for remaining games as well.

The CPC, like all start up businesses, can expect to be hit with various issues on their learning curve. For example, the first game of the second round of playoffs was also the first day of the spring that the temperature was above 95 degrees. There just was not enough air conditioning to cool the building and by the time the game began, you could clearly see water puddling on the ice in hope that it would freeze. Scheduling 3 or 4 high school graduations on a single day has caused the local school districts to hear from disgruntled parents about difficulties in parking and traffic flow and the heavy building usage may well show up on the ice surface again.

Start up businesses also know when they have found a hot item. In this case, it may be that the coolest place in town is the CPC trying to keep the ice from melting. It certainly is wonderful to leave the swelter of the early evening behind and sit in a chilly hockey arena. The watch party for Saturday's second game of the Calder Cup Finals was expanded again. Three sides of the arena were open for seating (the fourth still held the stage for the graduation exercises) and more of the regular game features were back even though the play was on the jumbo screens. The horns were sounded for goals and the goal scorers were announced on the public address system. The lighting around the arena flashed the power play and penalty kill logos and of course the Ice Girls had their T-shirt launcher for between period entertainment.

Both on and off the ice, Cedar Park is showing growing pains to the cheers of a lot of hockey fans. There is no evidence that they even notice the group over in the corner of the building sulking with a Hershey bar.

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