Home Ice Advantage
Before the Breakaway opened, the league would tailgate under a tent in the Coliseum parking lot after games. Now Oxender says the teams hang out in the restaurant instead, watching other masters games and talking "about how slow the other guys are."
Lynley Weston's family also moved their drop-in hockey group to the Coliseum from the Cube for a better ice time. In two blond braids and full hockey gear, twenty-six-year-old Weston waits to take the ice on the north rink on a Saturday night. She's the only girl in a group of twenty guys and has never played organized hockey in her life--but her father and brother play, and she drives out from Royal Oak "just for the fun of it."
In the south rink on Saturday evening, it's "Back to School" DJ Night, and colorful laser lights flash as kids from Chelsea, Dexter, and Manchester schools circle the rink to pop music. A few tots struggle to find their footing on walkers with wheels amidst speed-loving hockey players and graceful figure skaters.
Chelsea resident Amy Downer says hockey players and figure skaters have the same thirst for ice. "You can see it in their faces," she says. Downer's daughter, Maddie, thirteen, used to train up to four hours a day at the Coliseum with Gary Clark of Ypsilanti, who has coached at the national and international level for more than forty years. He coaches seventeen-year-old Chelsea resident Graham Emberton, the highest-ranked competitive skater in town.