New Canton rink blends high-end touches with hometown feel

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The new Canton Ice House opened to rave reviews this past fall (Michelle Stark photo)

The new Canton Ice House opened to rave reviews this past fall (Michelle Stark photo)

It went from approval to completion in just over one year’s time, and in a matter of months it has already started to feel like home.

For the local hockey community, that seems to be the prevailing sentiment toward the new Canton Ice House, a state-of-the-art private ice rink facility that has drawn rave reviews since its opening this past fall.

Located on North Street near the Canton/Stoughton border, the new rink features two regulation-size ice sheets with stadium-style seating, a large concession area on a mezzanine level, a pro shop, crossfit training center, and a soon-to-be-completed indoor golf simulator room that will offer season passes. There are plenty of high-end touches — from the top of the line speaker system to the ambient microphones that pump the “sounds of the game” into the mezzanine area — along with a surprising degree of small-town charm.

The “Canton element,” in fact, is one of the more notable features of the new facility and was a primary point of emphasis for the property’s three owner/operators: Bill Dadasis, Chuck Giacchetto, and Matthew Dimock, all longtime residents of the town who are active in youth sports.

“If we couldn’t get it built in Canton we were going to scrub the project,” explained Dadasis, a self-proclaimed Canton lifer, “because the passion while building this place was driven by having kids in the [hockey] program and being Canton guys.”

Dadasis said much of the work on the rink was done by Canton businesses and individuals, including Greg Pando, the lead architect on the project, and Giacchetto’s firm By Design Construction, which served as the general contractor. The crossfit training center, Athlete Operations, is run by Canton’s Kevin Foley, and the rink itself is overseen and managed by Dave McNeil, a Canton native and CHS hockey alumnus.

Meanwhile, the Ice House really seems to have rolled out the red carpet for its Canton-based tenants, which include the two biggest hockey programs in town: Canton Youth Hockey and Canton High School.

The red rink features a Canton logo at center ice. (Michelle Stark photo)

The Ice House’s “red rink” features a Canton logo at center ice. (Michelle Stark photo)

In addition to having the Canton logo at center ice, Dadasis said Canton teams get priority ice time and automatic first preference on the “red rink,” which has more seating than the otherwise identical “blue rink.” They also have full use of the meeting/conference room for team film sessions and dinners, and the boys and girls varsity teams, in what is by far the biggest perk, were each given their own dedicated locker rooms and coaches’ offices and encouraged to customize them to their liking.

“One of the things that we told the town of Canton is the [hockey] program is such an elite program that we wanted to give them something really nice,” said Dadasis, whose son Mike skates for the boys varsity team. “So these locker rooms are dedicated to Canton and when the high school season is over they get cleaned out and they don’t get used. That’s it — we lock the doors and do not reopen them until after Thanksgiving for them to use.”

Of the rink’s other major tenants, which include Westwood High School, Blue Hills Regional, the (Canton-based) Boston Junior Huskies, and the Crimson Hockey Club, the only other one to receive a dedicated locker room was Xaverian Brothers, an elite Division 1 private school program and a major score for the Ice House. Xaverian’s coach, Dave Spinale, is a Canton resident, and the Gunning family of Canton, who are big supporters of the school, installed custom-built wood lockers at their expense as a tribute to the late Michael and Tom Gunning, two beloved Cantonites whose lives were cut short by tragic accidents.

A plaque on the boards of the red rink also remembers Tom Gunning, along with two other longtime CYH volunteers and “great hockey dads” who passed away last year, Pat Walsh and Steve Staffiere. There is also a framed No. 5 jersey hanging at the rink in honor of the late Scott Herr, a former CHS hockey player who was killed in a car accident in 2010.

All of these extra touches and gestures, according to the owners, are genuine expressions of how they feel about the rink and its place in the community. But it’s not just about sentimentality for these three; it’s about providing an unparalleled rink experience with the latest in comfort and technology.

To that end, Dimock said they did their homework and consulted with experts on rink design and all of the technical aspects associated with operating a top-of-the-line facility. For the chiller system, they chose a custom-designed model by Pennsylvania-based ice rink gurus Everything Ice that offers the latest in smart technology and energy efficiency. They purchased two new Zambonis and installed a built-in snow-melting pit; for the pro shop they bought a double head Blademaster skate sharpener — the same kind used by most NHL teams; and they partnered with LiveBarn.com, a video streaming service that records the action on the ice and provides unlimited access to live and on-demand broadcasts for anyone with a subscription.

In addition to all of the bells and whistles, the Ice House ownership group also has a management team it believes in, led by GM McNeil, who oversees day-to-day operations, including scheduling of staff and ice time.

The Ice House cafe on the mezzanine level (Michelle Stark photo)

The Ice House cafe, located on the mezzanine level (Michelle Stark photo)

To manage both the pro shop and the ice itself, the company brought in Dennis Carboni, an industry veteran who is so meticulous and passionate about his craft that Dadasis calls him the “ice whisperer.” For the Ice House Café, they turned to Joe Lastoria, former longtime owner of Lastoria Trattoria in Stoughton. Lastoria said his menu offers a “different spin on concession food,” with everything from pastas and artisan-style sandwiches to homemade New York-style pizzas.

So far at least, everything seems to be working, and the response from the hockey community has been immediately and overwhelmingly positive.

“It really does have that hometown feel despite the fact that it’s a private rink, and you don’t really get that at a lot of private rinks,” noted Brian Shuman, head varsity coach of the CHS boys team. “We couldn’t be happier or luckier with the setup we have this year at this facility.”

Asked what the atmosphere has been like at the Ice House since the start of the hockey season, both Dimock and McNeil compared it to a “mini community center,” which was both gratifying and somewhat surprising to see, they said.

“When the tryouts started for the high school teams,” said Dimock, “they’d get off the ice and have their bookbags with them and sit down and start doing their homework, and then the kitchen opened and they started having meals here too. It was really kind of encouraging to me because I totally didn’t expect it. And to see them doing it sets a really good example for the younger kids, but it’s also great for each other because they can see that it’s a good place to hang out.”

“When you stand here and you see how everybody’s using it in multiple different ways,” added Dadasis, “and it’s the Canton community … and then you see the Westwood kids come in for a practice or a pre-game and you know everybody seems to get along because it’s just that hockey community. And then when the high school kids leave, then you get all the moms and dads coming up here for the practices with little Johnny on the ice and little Sarah running around.”

“It’s just a great feeling to see the kids using it,” he said. It really is.”

The Canton Ice House offers weekly public skating on most Fridays from 7:30-9:30 p.m. and Sundays from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Skate rentals are available. Stay tuned for the updated website at www.cantonicehouse.com.

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