CAZENOVIA — Last winter, the Cazenovia Boys varsity ice hockey team moved their skates and preseason practice outdoors to the Burton Street rink after the SUNY Morrisville IcePlex became unavailable due to COVID-19.
Recognizing that the hockey and pedestrian rinks at Burton Street Park would need some upgrades, Laker’s parents, Kelly McCrink and Nicki Donlin, stepped up to raise money for the work and offered their help to the rink manager, Mark Costello.
“The rink is such a treasure for our little village,” said McCrink. “Our high school hockey team had a season last year because of the rink. . . As a hockey parent of several sons since 2013, I can’t imagine the loss of a season of memories and development. . . There’s a reason kids grow up in Caz, go to school [or] work and then return to raise their families here. It’s an amazing community for doing the most important work of your life.
To help support the rink improvements, McCrink created a memorial pillow based on a photo she took during the hockey team’s first skate on Jan. 28, 2021.
McKenzie Houseman, the owner of 20|EAST on Albany Street, sold the pillows for $40 and donated all proceeds to the rink.
McCrink’s boutique, “By Kelly,” provided $700 worth of pillow supplies. Donlin, along with Todd and Jill Bennett of Total Lawn Care & Landscaping, also made donations.
According to McCrink, Burton Street Rink pillows raised a total of $4,170.
In February 2021, Community Bank District Manager Barbara Houghton organized a $2,000 donation to the rinks on behalf of the bank.
To help the fundraising effort, Donlin used his connections with the Cazenovia Area Community Development Association (CACDA) to facilitate online donations.
Last January, she announced on the ‘Burton St Rink’ Facebook page that the CACDA had agreed to accept donations to the rink via her website.
As of November 2021, monetary donations were $6,315.40, less associated PayPal fees.
Pillow sales so far, along with proceeds from last year’s “Skate with a Laker” bake sale, have covered the purchase of a Sparx skate sharpener and three grinding wheels, six “pushers” to aid beginner skaters on the pedestrian rink, two free-standing plastic goalies for the hockey rink, and two NHL-grade hockey nets.
The skate sharpener, which was delivered to the rink on January 14, is available to the public free of charge.
“It’s a wonderful addition because of the damage skate blades take from skating outdoors,” McCrink said. “It avoids the long trip to Syracuse to sharpen the skates and gives the occasional skater a greater chance to enjoy the rink. We have many parents who collect used skates for their little ones to enjoy a few skates a year on the rink.
The pushers, which arrived Jan. 20, can be stacked for taller skaters. According to McCrink, each has space on the front for business or personal advertisements, which can be purchased for $250. This money, less printing costs, will be used to purchase grinding wheels for the skate sharpener or other items needed to improve the rink.
Jay McMahon, owner of Albany-based Sure Shot Hockey, personally delivered the 60-pound plastic goalies to the rink, saving fundraisers hundreds of dollars on shipping. Full-size tools will allow players to set up pick-up games when goalies are unavailable and allow individual players to practice their shooting skills.
On Jan. 25, McCrink said she and Donlin were waiting for the call to retrieve the two nets from a local hockey rink.
“We were able to buy two nets, have them sandblasted, painted and re-netched for $600,” she said. “The new nets cost nearly $1,000 each, plus $700 shipping.”
The existing nets, which have been at the rink since its opening, will remain in the park in a new Costello shooting lane created near the hockey rink.
McCrink and Donlin are currently studying two engravable benches that would be placed at each rink. The arrival of the benches will be announced on the rink’s Facebook page.
Although McCrink no longer manufactures her pillows to sell at 20|EAST, she still accepts individual orders.
“If anyone wants one they can contact me and I’d be happy to deliver to Caz or by boat,” she said.
All monetary donations collected through the ACCDA website will go toward leveling the pedestrian rink and the hockey rink, which was originally installed as part of a community skate park.
“The bottom of [the hockey rink] is like a big bowl,” Costello explained in March 2021. “He [are drains] you can plug it in, so you can fill it with water and it would act like a pond that you could freeze. But it really didn’t work well. They’re talking about making that rink level, so you just go in there, put your six inches of water in it, and it’ll freeze. You wouldn’t have to wait for the 10 inches of water to freeze. Plus, lacrosse kids could also use this flat surface.
According to Costello, the goal is to level the pedestrian rink this spring.
“It’s definitely going to be taken care of,” he said. “We spoke to a contractor last fall, and he told us it wouldn’t be that bad and he would take care of it.”
Leveling the hockey rink, however, will be a more complex project that will require expert consultation and additional planning.
“We’ll be crossing our fingers that all good things happen, and we’ll deal with that this summer,” Costello said. “[Until then,] we will continue to put water and [hoping] Mother Nature continues to cooperate with us. The weather has been superb this year. The lack of snow really helps, because you can’t really make ice out of snow. . . We had a great turnout this year as well. It’s really nice to see him getting used to it.
The rink manager praised McCrink and Donlin for their dedication to improving the rinks.
“Kelly and Nicki are just amazing,” he said. “They’ve done a great job raising funds and putting them back into the [rinks].”
He also expressed his gratitude to Tyler Dunne, a former Cazenovia hockey player who helped Costello do “muscle work” on the rinks.
Currently, McCrink, Donlin and Costello are exploring the possibility of selling commemorative shirts to raise funds to purchase used hockey rink skid plates.
Skid plates, which are the yellow plastic pieces that run along the bottom of the boards where they meet the ice, help prevent pucks, skates and ice resurfacing equipment from damaging the plywood boards .
According to Donlin, new fundraising funds will also be used to purchase the two memorial benches, a handrail for the pedestrian rink and building materials.
“Burton Street Park is one of the only recreation areas in the city that is not affiliated with the school, which makes it a bit more accessible, especially when we were dealing with quarantine and COVID protocols,” Donlin said. “In addition to the rinks, it houses two little league baseball/softball fields, a basketball court, a playground, and a building with a concession stand and washrooms. The Cazenovia Baseball and Softball Association raised $25,000 $ to improve the baseball/softball fields and has also done a fantastic job engaging the community in this effort.The potential of the park is endless.
The village also plans to complete its own improvements to Burton Street Park.
According to Mayor Kurt Wheeler, the village received a grant about three years ago to upgrade the park, including the parking lot and service building. However, the project was put on hold due to COVID-19 and delays in securing a contract from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for the grant.
“It’s moving forward now and we’re in the design stage,” Wheeler said.
The rink-specific CACDA online donation portal is closed, but donations can be made at any time with checks payable to “Village of Cazenovia – Burton Street Rinks” and mailed to Village of Cazenovia, 90 Albany St., Cazenovia, NY 13035.
For rink hours, ice conditions and skate sharpening times, as well as rink-related photos and stories from community members and former Lakers, visit the “Burton Street Ice Rink” The Facebook page.