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Modern-day hockey began in South Bend with the opening of Notre Dame’s Joyce Athletic and Convocation Center in 1968. The north dome’s ice rink was the home of Notre Dame’s first varsity hockey team. In an effort to build fan support and to increase an awareness of hockey in a basketball environment, Head Coach Lefty Smith and Assistant Coach Tim McNeill worked to attract youngsters to the rink, creating four mixed-age teams. Within a year, the Irish Youth Hockey League was born, and hockey was off and running in northern Indiana. It very quickly outgrew the ACC’s available ice time and one of ND’s earliest fans, the Lerman Family, renovated an old foundry building located at 1421 S. Walnut Street into an ice-skating facility, opening in the fall of 1974. A main rink and a small studio rink were part of the original construction. Due to its frigid environment, it was christened The Ice Box.
In the fall if 1981, an Indiana Not-For-Profit corporation, South Bend Youth Hockey Inc. (SBYH) was created to operated and eventually own the Ice Box.
In late 1980’s and the early 1990’s area youth, high school and senior leagues began cutting back programming due to a shortage of available ice time. To meet the demands of local league growth, a second, year-round rink was added to the Ice Box, opening for the 1999/2000 season. Improvements included a new building and ice surface, an expanded lobby, pro shop and skate rental, a relocated snack shop and a new refrigeration system for the entire two-rink complex.
The second rink greatly benefited the nearly 500 skaters now participating in the various programs offered by the Irish Youth Hockey League. Youngsters from age 4 to 14 strap on helmets and skates every week, participating in house, house select, alternate and full travel teams. The addition of the new rink allowed house league teams to significantly increase their practice time, and the league’s travel teams doubled their activities. The Michiana High School Hockey League, consisting of teams from area and regional high schools, benefited from the increase in ice time as well. Over one hundred and fifty high school athletes participate in the average year, playing for high school teams or for area USA Hockey Select Teams. The South Bend Senior Hockey League, previously restricted to 8 to 10 teams due to a lack of available ice time, exploded into a league of just under 450 players, men and women, spread across 30 to 35 teams. The second rink allowed for the addition of a new figure skating program as well. The Irish Figure Skating Club, typically a spring and summer program, expanded significantly with the opening of the second rink, as Rink 2 operates year-round.
While the creation
of a 4th sheet of ice due to the closing of ND’s JACC rink and the
opening of the Compton Family Ice Arena allowed for some local
growth, it’s biggest impact was upon our community’s
attractiveness for regional and
national tournaments. In excess of 20 tournaments
are hosted in a typical year.