Staying young on skates - adult hockey leagues from me and women to Lakes Region ice rinks

LACONIA — As ponds and lakes begin to skim over with ice, young athletes might be tempted to root around in their closets to find the skates and sticks they'll need once ice hockey season begins. The sport isn't just for the young, though, as the young-at-heart are also lacing up and heading to the ice arena, where adult hockey leagues are already in full swing.

Ray Vigue, who organizes the Lakes Region Legends adult men's league at Laconia Ice Arena, said the league was started by Ken McKinnon more than a dozen years ago. McKinnon, the first Canadian recruited to play at UNH, graduated in 1962 and still holds the Wildcat record for goals scored in a game. Vigue said that McKinnon was passionate about hockey, and he clearly wasn't ready to hang up his skates after his collegiate career. He founded the Granite State Hockey League and played in several Concord area teams. McKinnon later started the Lakes Region Legends, a 35-and-older men's team.

"He deserves a lot of credit for getting us all together and getting it all started," said Vigue.

The Lakes Region Legends league fields ten teams of men, most in the 40 to 60 age range, with games three nights each week. There's also a men's league which meets on Friday nights at the ice arena, and a third adult league for the more competitive. For Vigue, who didn't start playing organized hockey until he was in his 40s, the more casual pace of the Legends league is the right fit.

"It's fun hockey, " he said. "There's not supposed to be any intentional contact. We keep it a very fun, easy-going league."

Vigue has a roster of 85 full-time players, who play 11-on-11 games. Some players are on more than one team. It's a popular pastime – he said there are men who want full-time action who sit on the waiting list for years. Fortunately, it's much easier to get a taste of the action, as he also has a substitute list, and he said there are a handful of substitutes required each week.

What's motivating so many to get back on the ice? Vigue said there's two forces at work. First, there's a pure love of a game.

"If you like playing the game, it's a great way at the end of your career," he said. Then there's the opportunity for the type of camaraderie available from team sports.

"The locker room, male bonding thing," he said.

Local women have gotten into the game, too. The Lakes Region Women's Hockey Club was formed in 1993 by Kathy Gardiner, Lianne Lahrette, Betsy Spencer and Paige Rooney, who set up the club for instruction and recreation. The players first convened at the open-air rink at New Hampton School, but have been at the Laconia Ice Arena since it was built in 1996. Today, the club is organized by Rooney, Lori Marsh and Sara Rosenbloom.

"We play every Tuesday night all winter long," said Rosenbloom. "There's no requirement to play. You don't have to have any experience. You just need to be 21 and have hockey equipment. Players in the Women's Club range in age from 20s to 60s, and with all levels of experience."

Rosenbloom said there have consistently been enough players to fill a 24-player roster, though there are a currently a few open spots.

"This year, we're actively trying to recruit players," she said.

"Women's hockey is different than men's hockey – it's more of a finesse game," Rosenbloom said. "Most of us are there because it's a lot of fun. It's fast-paced, you don't think about anything else while you're playing, and it's good exercise."

"It's a pretty accepting group. People aren't afraid to show up if you have some basic skating and hockey skills," Rosenbloom said. "People have a good time playing."

Interested in playing? Visit laconiaicearena.com and click on the "adult hockey" tab for more information.

Comissioners tell convention more budget transfers will be needed (379)

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee approved a half dozen line item budget transfers when it met Wednesday afternoon at the Belknap County complex, including $95,000 for an increase in the so-called New Hampshire Bed Tax which is based on a percentage of the revenues received by the Belknap County Nursing Home.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said that the nursing home received more revenue than originally projected in this year's budget and will have to pay a 5.5 percent tax on the additional income.
Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) observed that the Bed Tax was enacted "'as a gimmick when we started to tax hospitals and give money back to them," a device used in many states to obtain more Medicare funds.
Other budget transfers approved included $52,225 for part-time and overtime wages in nursing home employees from the full-time wage account, $1,035 for the nursing home retirement account from the full-time wage account, $12,000 from the full-time wage account to professional management services to pay for the services of a New London firm hired to manage the nursing home until a full-time administrator is hired, $14,700 for dispatcher wages and overtime in the Sheriff's Department from the wages for full-time deputies account and $800 for vehicle maintenance at the nursing home from the new equipment budget line.
It was explained that the a truck used by the nursing home for snow plowing broke down recently and needs to be repaired as soon as possible so that it will be available this winter.
County Commissioners told the committee members that additional budget transfers will be needed by the end of the year, including $75,000 for medical services and supplies for the corrections department, $8,544.23 for wages in the county attorney's office, $3,600 for medical services in the county attorney's office and $5,000 for electricity for the register of deeds office.
Commission Chairman David DeVoyy (R-Sanbornton) said that the major increase in the medical services for the corrections department, which was originally budgeted for $150,000, is accounted for in large part by medical services required by inmates which were provided at Lakes Region General Hospital and Dartmouth-Hithcock Medical Center as well as anticipated bills from Horizons Counseling Center, which is working with the department on a pilot program for substance abusers designed to give them treatment prior to court action involving their cases.

$2M fix - Gilford wants bond for elementary school retrofit

GILFORD —The School Board has approved a $26,030,568 budget for school year 2016-2017, up 2.5 percent from this year's budget of $24,264,335 or $643,848.
The board is asking taxpayers to support a $2 million bond that will be used for mechanical, electrical and HVAC upgrades to the Gilford Elementary School. It will appear as a warrant article on the annual ballot
Superintendent Kent Hemingway said the board had talked initially about spending about $400,000 a year over the next five years for the upgrades but decided that taking one bond would be preferable because all of the systems could be interconnected and contractors wouldn't have to go back each year to reconnect and upgrade the newest projects. Hemingway said the borrowing rates are also very favorable.
Hemingway also noted the original engineering called for a wood-chip plant, but once the district performed an emergency replacement of the boiler about three years ago the board eliminated it from further consideration.
"The final project will be under $2 million," Hemingway said, noting the school was built in 1939 and this is a 30- to 50-year project.
The proposed budget included the first year's bond payment that could be $35,167 for a 10-year bond at 3 percent or $41,028 for a 15-year bond at 3.5 percent.
In other budget items, Hemingway said there is a maximum increase of 3 percent or $142,000 in health insurance factored into the proposed budget. The maximum increase is used for compiling the budget but the actual increase rate won't be available until after the budget is well into the SB2 budget process.
The district is in its third year of a three-year contract with the Gilford Education Association and the budget includes a 2.5 percent increase in salaries or $87,585. Hemingway said there are no mandatory statutory increases in the contribution to the state retirement system, keeping it at $54,000.
Even though enrollments increased slightly this year and are predicted to stay level or slightly increase over the next few years said Hemingway, the district lost one language arts teaching position for the middle school. The purchase of the K-through-8 math program is completed, meaning the district will not be spending $69,780 in the next budget year.
Maintenance projects are projected to cost $216,700 and include $165,000 for paving of the Gilford Elementary School parking lot, $24,000 for carpet computer labs at the high school, $7,200 for circulation pumps, $6,500 for stairwell cameras, and $14,000 to replace the 2005 lawn mower for the district.
The Budget Committee has been working in subcommittees on each individual school budget and a budget hearing is scheduled for Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. at Gilford High School.