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Fighting Spirit Laconia bound: Northern States Hockey League team will call Ice Arena home next winter

LACONIA — Rod Simmons, head coach and manager of the American Hockey Institute's Fighting Spirit, says he's only spent a little time in Laconia but he's already impressed with the city's hockey tradition and is looking forward to having his junior hockey team play a full schedule next season at the Laconia Ice Arena.
''It's nice to come to a city that has a long tradition of supporting local hockey teams'' said Simmons, as he read a history of the Laconia Lakers, an amateur hockey team that started playing in Laconia in 1946 and became a powerhouse during the 1950s and 1960s, at the entryway to the Laconia Ice Arena, which was written by Lakers' goalie John Richardson.
Simmons, who is from Ogdensburg in upstate New York, has coached the Fighting Spirit to two straight first place finishes in the Northern States Hockey League and saw his team advance to the semifinals with 7-1 and 6-3 wins over the New England Stars at the Laconia Ice Arena last weekend.
The Fighting Spirit will be looking for their second straight win in the league championship series this coming weekend in Morrisville, New York, where they play the Jersey Shore Wildcats Saturday and hope to advance to Sunday's championship game.
The Fighting Spirit moved to Waterville Valley last summer after playing the previous year at Lake George, New York, and were forced to look for a new home when the New York arena decided not to put down any ice.
''We've really enjoyed Waterville but have been looking for a larger community where our players can get involved. Laconia has a strong youth program and that will allow our players to do some volunteer activity'' said Simmons.
The Laconia Ice Arena has been the home for many years of the Laconia Junior Leafs and New Hampshire Lakers, who played in the Eastern Hockey League and the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League, but those teams opted last summer to take the year off due to a number of issues.
Simmons said that his players are 18-20 year-olds who are looking to play college hockey at the Division I and Division II level and will be taking college courses, hopefully at Lakes Region Community College and will live in dorm style atmosphere like that of a prep school where they will be supervised by their coaches.
Simmons' wife Lisa, a native of London, Ontario, who is a professional power skating instructor, is the team's skating coach.
He said that the Fighting Spirit has already placed 40 of its players in Division I and Division II schools and that between seven and nine players from the 2013-14 team are likely to be placed this year.

Members of AHI Fighting Spirit practice at the Laconia Ice Arena, where they defeated the New England Stars 7-1 and 6-3 in a weekend series to advance to the semifinals of the Northern States Hockey League in Morrisville, New York this coming weekend. The Fighting Spirit will move to Laconia next season after having played this season in Waterville Valley. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Friday, 14 March 2014 12:28

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February was record month for Gunstock Mountain

GILFORD — Gunstock Mountain Resort General Manager Greg Goddard told selectmen Wednesday night that February revenues set an all-time record.

Goddard, who gives selectmen a brief review of activities twice a year, said the resort is on target to reach a 3 percent revenue growth goal over last year.

"We had two great school vacation weeks," Goddard said, noting that the weather in February, while painful for the people who don't participate in winter sports, was excellent for Gunstock.

He described January as "kind of schizophrenic" with "monsoons" early in the month and extreme cold weather toward the end.

"We were able to recover (from the rains) in time to have a good Martin Luther King holiday weekend," he said.

He said there were solid season pass sales and in February the resort broke records in all revenue categories including tickets, lessons, rentals, children's activities, retail sales, food and beverage sales and Nordic events.

Gunstock's fiscal year runs from May 1 until April 30. When the books close on fiscal year 2014, Goddard said they should be on target to meet their 3 percent growth goal. With no major or unanticipated capital expenses, Goddard said they should have a good year.

"We always have something come up but expenses are in line with expectations," he said.

He told selectmen the ski season would end on April 6.

"I know that seems kind of early but most people have had enough by then," Goddard said.

With the opening of the summer adventure park and the zip line this past season, Goddard said the resort needs at least five to six weeks between the end of ski season and the beginning of the summer season to prepare the mountain and get the summit ready.

The adventure park opens on May 24, or the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend. He said permanent campers will be able to set up starting May 17.

In other Gunstock news, Goddard said the tentative date of the Tough Mudder event is the second week in September, but the event organizers are having some trouble finding parking for 5,600 people.

Last year, Tough Mudder was held on one of the hottest weekends in July and more than the usual number of participants succumbed to heat-related symptoms, taxing their own medical resources as well as those of the Gilford Fire Department.

Goddard said last year participants parked at the N.H. Motor Speedway in Loudon, however if the event is held during the second weekend of September, the speedway will not be available because it is the week before a NASCAR race and that's when the track has camper move-in day.

When selectmen asked if Gunstock would have horseback riding this year, Goddard said they wouldn't because horses and the zips lines are "incompatible,"

"I guess the horses think they are big giant birds swooping down on them," he said saying skittish horses and novice riders are also incompatible.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 March 2014 12:17

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Spaulding donates hoops to Boys & Girls Club

LACONIA — It's not every day that you'll find a basketball court positioned below stained glass windows. But the Boys & Girls Club of the Lakes Region has one in the hoop court it has laid out in the Great Room at the former Saint James Episcopal Church, it's new home on North Main Street.
And, thanks to a donation from Spalding Sports of two of it's ''Beast'' rollaway hoop units, the Great Room, which was once the church's worship area, is now the scene of lots of basketball activity .
The rollaway units can be adjusted in height from seven and half to 10 feet and have a 50-gallon tank at the base which can be filled with water or sand to make them more stable. They are also mounted on casters which makes them easy to move when there are other activities scheduled for the Great Room.
''It's very important that we are now able to offer basketball as part of our indoor recreation activities,'' said Laconia Police Chief and Boys & Girls Club President Chris Adams.'' We are really grateful to Spalding Sports for its donation and welcome donations of all kinds for our fund drive.'' The rollaway basketball hoops retail for $1,200.
The club is the midst of a $2.4 million capital campaign to renovate the church and recently reached the million dollar mark. He said that there are three parts of the fund drive, $700,000 for the purchase of the church property, $700,000 for renovations to the property and $1 million for an endowment fund.
Al Posnack, who chairs the Capital Campaign Committee, said that the rollaway hoops were recently assembled with the assistance of many of the children who take part in the school's programs.
He said that he and Chris Ennis, a member of the club's staff, started assembling the units at 9 a.m. and that attracted the attention of many of the young people who pitched in to help.
It took until 3 p.m. to complete the assembly according to Posnack.
"A lot of the kids were standing there, waiting to take shots. 10 minutes after we finished, they were playing a full-court basketball game.'' said Posnack.
He said that the stained glass windows, which will be sold, will soon be removed and replaced by heavily insulated bullet-proof windows as part of a plan to give the facility more of a secular appearance.
''They were scheduled to be removed by now but a lot of work has been delayed due to the vandalism which took place last year,'' said Posnack.
Last March the Vestry of the church accepted the club's offer to purchase the land and buildings for a reported price of $700,000. The property provides 17,000-square-feet of space between the ground floor and half-basement and sits on a 1.3-acre lot.
The new facility includes eight program rooms, which will provide space for academic support, art, small group activity, and computers, a 5,000-square-foot great room for indoor recreation, drama, dance, music, and social opportunities, a modern institutional kitchen for nutrition programs, cooking lessons, independent living skill building, and many meals as well as a spacious community room which will house a Kids Cafe and Game Room.
Last November the club was awarded a $250,000 grant by the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, which will be applied toward the acquisition of the building. It also has applied for a second $250,000 grant for the project, both of which have been applied for through the Belknap County Commission.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 09 April 2014 09:58

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Minimum wage votes split

CONCORD — When the New Hampshire House of Representatives last week voted by 173 to 118 to increase state minimum wage, the 18 members of the Belknap County Delegation split along strict party lines.

All 10 Republicans present — Reps. Richard Burchell of Gilmanton, Guy Comtois of Barnstead, Dennis Fields of Sanbornton, Don Flanders, Bob Luther and Frank Tilton of Laconia, Bob Greemore and Herb Vadney of Meredith, Stephen Holmes of Alton, and Michael Sylvia of Belmont — voted against the measure. Three Republicans — Jane Cormier of Alton, Charles Fink of Belmont and Colette Worsman of Meredith were absent and did not vote..

Four Democratic representatives — Lisa DiMartino of Gilford, Ruth Gulick of New Hampton, David Huot of Laconia and Ian Raymond of Sanbornton — voted in favor while the fifth, Beth Arsenault of Laconia, was absent and did not vote.

House Bill 1403 would increase the minimum hourly wage from $7.25 to $8.25 in 2015, to $9 in 2016 and annually thereafter by the percentage increase tied to the Consumer Price Index.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 March 2014 01:56

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