Arizona Rubber

Arizona’s and New Mexico’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

Speedskating now part of Ice Den Chandler programming


First, Arizona had hockey.

Now, it has speedskating.


A new short track speedskating club emerged in the Valley some nine months ago and the Phoenix SpeedSkating Club now calls the Ice Den Chandler home. The club hosts drop-in sessions throughout the year on Sunday mornings and during the summer in the afternoon as well.

After relocating with his family to Arizona from Chicago where speedskating clubs are plentiful, Chicago native Rick Olson initiated the steps of putting the program together and is now the organization’s president. Through his experience with the sport in Chicago, Olson recognized the potential in the Phoenix area and inquired into developing a speedskating program at all of the ice rinks in the area.

However, only one rink responded with interest—the Ice Den Chandler.

Julie Patterson (the Ice Den’s vice president of skating and programming) responded to my email and we set up a meeting to discuss why I felt that there was great potential for speedskating here in the East Valley, including the existing interest and diversity in ice sports, the competitive sporting atmosphere in Arizona generally, the quality of the Ice Den Chandler facility, the bespeedskating2_logonefit of speedskating for a large demographic and the proximity to the Utah Olympic Oval that stages the Olympic trials for each Winter Olympics,” explained Olson. “I also wanted to discuss the benefits of speedskating for kids to help build core strength and balance with other sports.”

“After meeting with Ms. Patterson, whose personal and professional experience enables her to be very visual, she agreed to provide ice time exclusively for speedskating.”

The strategy was then straight out of the 1989 Kevin Costner film “Field of Dreams” – “If you build it, they will come.”

Through a grassroots effort with the Ice Den, which included communications with U.S. Speedskating, the Phoenix SpeedSkating Club was formed.

The club has a Board of Directors that has deep experience with speedskating from clubs across North America. One Board member, Ian Baranski, is a U.S. Speedskating National Team alum and still remains deeply involved in the sport. A member of the 1998 World Team, Baranski competed at the 1998 and 2002 U.S. Olympic Trials. Speed skating sessions are instructed by a certified/high performance-based coach.

Speedskating offers benefits to all kinds of athletes, including sports enthusiasts who value other forms of skating on ice, e.g., hockey players and figure skaters, but also inline skaters, cyclists, triathletes and soccer players. With the right coaching, speedskating makes an excellent “power” cross-training sport and thus, can improve strength performance in those other sports.

“The development pipeline of U.S. Speedskating is vital to the sport,” said U.S. Speedskating executive director Ted Morris. “We have a long history of producing Olympic champions, but the talent pool for these athletes comes from our grassroots levels and the amazing kids who train hard and push for that speed they need to become elite.”

A point of pride for the sport is the constant feeling amongst skaters and volunteers that U.S. Speedskating is a family, not merely an extracurricular activity, and club practices are a reunion each week. Speedskating clubs are a common ground for all age groups and all levels of ability, allowing people to connect and learn from each other with limitless potential and friendships to evolve beyond the sport.

The Phoenix SpeedSkating Club is still not quite fully formalized, but according to Olson, its plan, with the support of the Ice Den Chandler, is “to strengthen the program and increase the participation to 30-plus participants, to make it a forum for kids to develop physically and socially, to host races, and to develop relationships with other rinks that have the same vision, whether in the same state or in neighbor states in order to host meets.

“Further, we also feel that this model will give an impetus to a Tucson club, which is the next Arizona area ripe for this sport.”

For additional information, contact

— Matt Mackinder

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