In years past, Rich Tibbetts has made it a point to take his children to “Skate With The Bears,” the annual event in the Portland area that gives locals a chance to take to the ice with the University of Maine hockey team. It’s typically held at the Cumberland County Civic Center, prior to the annual game the Black Bears play in Portland.

This year, Tibbetts, a Casco Bay Youth Hockey coach, took on the task of organizing the event. It evolved from a public skating session to a day-long slate of events today at Family Ice Center in Falmouth.

“It was interesting, bringing it together,” Tibbetts said.

Family Ice Center will host the Black Bears, who will take part in a series of hockey and skating events over the course of the day.

“This is a great way to reach out to the community and to fans,” said Kevin Sackville, Family Ice Center’s executive director.

“The University of Maine is up north and not always well-connected to Southern Maine. I hope the team can reach out and promote what they can do, as well. It will give them a great opportunity to reach out and promote the team to families and fans.”

Maine will practice from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., then hold a one-hour clinic at 12:45 for 70 mite and squirt players from Casco Bay Youth Hockey.

Following the clinic, the players will take part in the “Skate with the Bears” event from 2 to 3 p.m.

“It was nice to bring it together under one roof,” Tibbetts said. “It seemed like a great day — Jan. 1, to ring in the new year. Between Kevin and myself, we’ve gotten a lot of parent and community support.”

All events are free and open to the public, though a $5 donation per person is suggested for the “Skate With the Bears” session. Donations will benefit Opportunity Skate, Family Ice Center’s outreach program that provides ice time, instruction and equipment for groups such as teen at-risk programs, wheelchair and sled hockey programs and organizations that provide assistance for physically and mentally challenged individuals.

In Gorham, the University of Southern Maine men’s hockey team will host the United States NTDP Under-18 team in an exhibition game at USM Ice Arena at 1 p.m. today. Maine will face the USNTDP team at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Sackville and Tibbetts explained that the day of events in Falmouth began to take shape in late October, out of necessity. Sackville said ice time was unavailable at other facilities in the Portland area, including the Cumberland County Civic Center, which is hosting the Harlem Globetrotters tonight.

“I ended up getting in touch with (Maine Coach) Tim Whitehead and that started the whole process, with the fact that the Civic Center wasn’t available,” Tibbetts said.

“Tim said in e-mails, ‘hey, we’d love to do the clinic’ but also said, ‘we don’t even have a place to practice.’ I contacted Kevin and said, ‘we don’t have any ice.’ He said he could accommodate them.”

After “Skate With The Bears,” Family Ice Center will also host the Dudley Cup, the annual showcase between middle and high school boys’ and girls’ teams from Falmouth and Greely. The Dudley Cup begins at 3:10 p.m. with a middle school boys’ game and culminates at 8:30 p.m. with a game between the varsity boys’ teams.

“The whole day is to create awareness about Family Ice Center and the unique features about public access,” Sackville said.

“A lot of ice is strictly utilized for hockey and figure skating. Ours is focused on community access and family and public skating. We hope to create some awareness to a whole new group of people.”


Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at: [email protected]