For former Columbus Icemen like Scott Saddler, the doors of Hamilton Center are portals to their youth.
“When you walk inside, the building looks just like it did in 1976,” he said. “Memories start flooding back when I look at the rink. I remember the games I’ve played in during high school and all my former Icemen teammates.”
Saddler and other Columbus Icemen alumni will make more memories Saturday when they lace up their skates for the two Columbus Icemen Alumni Games. Players from 1975 to 2003, called “Legends” will face off at 6 p.m., while the younger alumni, known as the “Young Guns,” will begin at 8 p.m.
A Columbus Youth Hockey exhibition game will be played between games, featuring the Mites, the youngest division of CYH. Admission for the evening is $6.
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In each alumni game, the graduates from the odd years will play against the even-year alums.
The second alumni game began because so many alumni were anxious to play, and there was not enough space on the bench or opportunity for everyone to play.
“My most memorable alumni game was in 1991,” event organizer Boyce Stattenfield said. “It was the first time I got to play with my brother Ryan.”
Being able to organize the event helps Boyce Stattenfield serve as an ambassador for the Icemen alumni within the community.
“It’s an honor organizing the event on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s,” he said.
“That’s when our hockey community comes back home.”
Some former Icemen, such as Columbus Youth Hockey vice president Brad Bennett, have never left and still are involved in local hockey. Bennett graduated high school 20 years ago, and this event is as important to him as his high school reunions.
“It’s a great surprise when teammates I haven’t seen in years show up,” he said. “They want to play in the odd vs. even alumni games. One year, a whole team that I used to coach showed up to play, and that’s my favorite memory. Icemen alumni get older and bigger, but the game never ends because we can still play.”
The games are very competitive, but everyone on the ice knows they are already a winner because of their association with the Icemen fraternity.
After the Legends game last season, the 51-year-old Saddler received the inaugural Heritage Award. The Heritage Award will be given annually to the oldest skater in the Legends game.
Saddler is grateful to be a part of the Icemen heritage.
“This is a brotherhood that extends beyond my teammates,” he said. “The Columbus Icemen are my hockey family. “
What: Columbus Icemen Alumni Games
When: 6 p.m. Saturday (players from 1975 to 2003) and 8 p.m. Saturday (players from 2004 to 2017)
Where: Hamilton Center Ice Arena