Kids from the Hastings Hockey Association pose with members of the UHL groundbreaking ceremony crew at the “Rink of Dreams” site on Veterans Day. Left to Right: Tony Palo of Ryan Companies, Mark Parrish, Jacob Fick of Enebeck Construction, Devin Dubnyk, Mayor Mary Fasbender, Wayne Peterson of the MN Wild, Jeff Taffe and Tom Patnode of UHL. Photo by Bruce Karnick
United Heroes League breaks ground on Rink of Dreams on Veterans Day

For Shane Hudella and his team, the dreams of the facilities they want to have for helping military families have become plans and now, those plans continue to come to fruition at the United Heroes League property at 15211 Ravenna Trail on the edge of Hastings. For quite some time, Hudella and team have been building a Heroes Monument to honor military members, dreaming of the day they can add some permanent sports facilities to the UHL grounds.

That day has come. The grounds have been leveled, the plans have been drawn and now, as of Veterans Day, 2022, the ground has been broken for an NHL-sized sheet of ice with boards, locker rooms and stands. That will be the beginning of the development of the property for the future. The UHL Headquarters will move to be near the ice rink, and it will also feature a year-round sheet of ice inside the building. To the east of the rink and building will be a parking lot and to the east of that, a soccer and football field. Other developments on the property include a standard archery range, a 3D archery course and eventually a gun range. The idea of a baseball field has been tossed around too, but with Veterans Park being just a few minutes away from the UHL campus, The Hastings Hawks have approached Hudella with the idea of making renovations to that as part of a joint effort for UHL, the Hawks, HYAA and the rest of the community.

UHL Chairman of the Board, Tom Patnode emceed the groundbreaking event discussing the importance of the rink on UHL properties. The rink will be used for both private and public events. Having the ice on private property where access can be controlled is vital to giving military families oneof-a-kind experiences. The connections that UHL has with the NHL and other pro sports is vital to the success of the charity.

Mayor Mary Fasbender was the first guest speaker and she spoke on the tourism aspect and how the UHL property will be such a unique asset to the town and to military families around the region.

Tony Palo from Ryan Companies, the company overseeing the construction spoke next.

“As a veteran myself, I'm grateful for the organizations that focus on helping the military community, especially United heroes League. This organization resonates with me quite a bit just because of the strong emphasis on kids of military families. Even though my two boys did not have to experience my absence during my deployments, I am absolutely thrilled that United Heroes League is providing opportunities for kids who do have to experience that absence, the ability to participate in sports. As we all know, it's an important outlet for kids, especially for their health growth and their development.

“Speaking on behalf of Ryan companies, we're excited to help bring the United Heroes League ice rink to life. Our mission is to create places for people to thrive, and we're confident that this ice rink will help kids and military families thrive. We're also committed to making positive change within our communities, industries and families. Not only have we increased our spend with minority women in veteran-owned business enterprises by nearly 250%, but we've also launched six employee resource groups, including one dedicated solely to veterans, called Shamrock Six. All that being said we're truly honored to support United Heroes League and to be part of this project. Lastly, just want to take a moment to thank our veterans currently serving and their families who are there to support them by their sides. Happy Veterans Day.”

Jeff Taffe, former Raider great and retired NHL player spoke next, “It means an awful lot to this board here and the military families. It is a neat opportunity that we have here, creating the space, a nice rink for kids to play on and coming from this town, it means a lot to myself.”

Along with Taffe, there were two other NHL players on hand: Mark Parrish and Devin Dubnyk. Dubnyk is one of the newer NHL players to join the ranks of UHL ambassadors.

“I just got to know Shane, and as you know, I'm Canadian, but just to see the sacrifice these people put in and the sacrifices their families have to make with their absences, and all different things. Getting to see the difference that you can make firsthand and getting to work with Shane and getting to know him and realizing how great of an organization this is. It just was a no brainer,” explained Dubnyk.

The Rink of Dreams will be a regional asset with NHL players being able to host events for their own charities, too.

“It is absolutely incredible,” said Parrish. “It's something that the support that we've gotten from Shane is probably double what we've given him. He is such an amazing guy and to create this kind of a platform for us to come down, whether it's his game with the United Heroes League’s kids or whatever charity it is of our choice, to have this is absolutely incredible and something special to Minnesota.”

“You can see, and you know how great of an organization this is when Shane asks you something everybody just drops what they're doing and comes to help out and that says just about all you need to know about how great of a group this is,” added Dubnyk.

The property is under construction, so the general public is currently not allowed on property. The cement around the rink for the concourse area will be poured sometime in the next week or so, but the rink installs such as the chiller system and the related concrete for the playing surface will not be installed until sometime around May. That concrete has some very specific conditional requirements to be poured. The parking lot should also be paved sometime in the next summer.

If things go as planned, UHL hopes to attract the attention of the NHL for the National Hockey Day game and the Hockey Day Minnesota., but that is still something that needs to be planned and applied for.

November 16, 2022