September/October 2021

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PHOTOS: USA HOCKEY REAL PROGRAMS Adult Hockey W HEN THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC FIRST STARTED making its way into Alaska in March 2020, John Stenehjem found himself away from home in Seattle. The general manager of the Royal Ice Center & O'Malley Sports Center in Anchorage happened to be at a local hockey rink in Washington state that was completely shut down. "What I keyed on there was the impor- tance of communication," Stenehjem said. "Folks just knew the buildings were closed down, they knew the leagues were shut down, but they didn't have any clue if they were getting a refund. Nobody could predict how long some of these clo- sures were going to be. So, it was impor- tant when I started doing things here with this building that we made sure that we communicated with our user group." Direct and frequent communication with hockey players at the Royal Ice Center & O'Malley Sports Center was a major rea- son why Stenehjem and his staff succeeded during the most difficult months of the pandemic. All the skaters who wanted to play knew exactly what was going on with local guidelines with the rink, all because of Stenehjem's hands-on approach. "I think it's important to at least reach out on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and let them know what you know," Stenehjem said. "For me, it stopped a lot of them from calling thinking I had some sort of secret connection with the municipal authorities and when shutdowns were coming. It's like, 'Here's what I know. I don't know any more than the rest of you, folks.'" Stenehjem's best method in keeping the players in the know was by sending email 48 / SEPTEMBER.OCTOBER.2021 USICERINKS.COM by GREG BATES Adult Hockey Regaining Steam Communication and leadership guided Alaska's largest league through pandemic

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