(Danny Gare (L) and Don Luce (R) standing inside of Five Star Training and Sports Performance facility in Pendleton, NY (above)
BY RANDY SCHULTZ –
April 1, better known as “April Fools Day,” is a special day enjoyed by many. Back in the 1970s Buffalo Sabres PR Director, Paul Wieland, took April 1 to a whole new level.
For several years Wieland would create a press release dated for release on April 1. One of his finest April Fools’ hoax was entitled, “Sliderex.”
The release stated that the Sabres were putting down a new plastic ice surface in Memorial Auditorium (the team’s home ice arena at the time) called Sliderex. The surface has been developed in a cow barn in Pictou County, Nova Scotia by Ramsay MacDonald.
Members of the Canadian Press, who fell for the prank, called then NHL commissioner, Clarence Campbell, for a comment. Campbell simply responded, “Of course the NHL always operates on the edge of technological change, so this is just another stepforward in making it a better game.”
Of course this was followed by a phone call by Mr. Campbell to the Sabres offices for an explanation.
It is now the 21st century. Wieland’s April Fools joke is now a reality. Interestingly, the Sabres still have a connection to this reality.
Enter former Sabres forward, Danny Gare, with Can-Ice.
“It’s a synthetic ice surface,” stated Gare, who played 14 seasons in the NHL with the Sabres, Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers. “It can stay up all year long.
“You can skate on it just like regular ice. And weather doesn’t bother it.
“In the summer you can come out in shorts along with your glove, sticks and skates to have some fun and develop your hockey skills or play a game.
“In the winter you can still use the synthetic ice. You can use it all year long.”
What is Can-Ice or as it is known by its corporate name, “Can-Ice International?”
It is synthetic ice panels that are a solid sheet material made from polyethylene plastics. These synthetic ice sheets connect using various methods including dovetail, tongue and groove, and flush edge to form an artificial ice surface.
“I met a friend a friend a few years ago who was in the sports servicing business by the name of Mike McGraw,” recalled Gare. “He told me about this synthetic ice that he found in Norway, of all places.
“I got together with Mike to work as a distributor of this product. But after about five years we found that it was the same as all the other synthetic surfaces out there.
“We were just about ready to give up. But we decided to look for and develop something that was more like an ice surface.”
Then fate stepped in. Gare was golfing at a tournament in Tampa, Fla., where he resides during the winter months, when he ran into a man from the plastics industry by the name of Dave Toddle.
“I simply ask him if he had ever made anything like synthetic ice,” said Gare, who also resides in the Western New York area. “He told me that he had panels over at his business and told me to come over sometime with my skates.
“So I took him up on his offer and a week later I went over. I put my skates on and Dave had laid down a colored panels.
“I pushed off on my skates and skated about 30 feet. I was amazed, to say the least.
“We worked on it for about a year developing it. The next thing you know “Can-Ice” had been created.
“It’s been very positive for us. Several NHL players of today use it. Sydney Crosby has a summer training center.”
Gare sees Can-Ice as a great tool for kids to use.
“You can use the same mechanics in hockey on Can-Ice as you do on ice,” stated Gare, who has had his uniform number 18 retired by the Sabres. “When the kids get on it they love it.
“You can put it in your basement, back yard or any place that has a flat surface.”
One person who is using it is Gare’s former linemate with the Sabres, Don Luce. Luce is currently operating the “Five Star Training and Sports Performance” facility in Pendleton, NY.
“It is an outdoor facility that can be used all year long,” said Luce, who played 13 seasons in the NHL with the Sabres, New York Rangers, Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs. “Thanks to Danny and Can-Ice kids can develop their hockey skills all year long. It really works.”
Hockey training has certainly come a long way since those Sliderex days. And that is no joke.
(Photo by Janet Schultz Photography/NY Hockey OnLine)