Sept. 21, 2014
Notre Dame, Ind. - On a day when Chicago Blackhawks legends Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews delighted a packed arena with goals, the real star of training camp for the Chicago Blackhawks was the University of Notre Dame's state-of-the-art hockey facility, the Compton Family Ice Arena.
Opening its doors to Irish fans in 2011, the Blackhawks held their training camp at Compton for a second straight season. Compton's NHL-caliber facilities were a perfect fit for the Blackhawks. The National Hockey League Original Six club waged open scrimmages on the Charles "Lefty" Smith rink before spirited crowds and held private practices on the Olympic rink.
Chicago Blackhawks vice president/general manager Stan Bowman, a 1995 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, said that the Compton Family Ice Arena has been outstanding for his club.
"We're really excited to be back at Notre Dame for a second year," Bowman said. "Last year was a great experience for our organization and our players. It's a first-class facility and the staff has been tremendous. It was a nice setting for our team to get together."
Blackhawks' players raved about the Compton Family Ice Arena facilities.
"This is top of the line," Blackhawks right wing Jeremy Morin said. "I remember coming here (in October 2008) and playing Notre Dame with the U.S. program in the old arena (at the Joyce Center). Now, coming here and seeing this facility ... it's obviously world class. It's a fun place to just be around. It's exciting to be here." Morin said he was particularly impressed with the Irish workout facility. He said the Blackhawks' players loved the space of the workout facility and the high-tech, up-to-date equipment.
Defenseman Nick Leddy said Blackhawks players love coming to Notre Dame and Compton.
"This is top-notch ... it has to be one of the best facilities in all of college," Leddy said. "Everything is outstanding. They really did a great job here with the stands being over the top. That makes it a lot louder. For the players, they did a great job with the recovery room, the workout room ... everything is Grade A."
Former Boston University standout Adam Clendening, a defenseman, said the facilities and atmosphere of Compton put it on an elite level in college hockey.
"This really is a beautiful facility," Clendening said. "The shooting room here is fun. That's probably the most popular thing. The guys spent a bunch of time in there. The other thing I really noticed is that the fans help make it really special. They're right on top of you. The way everything is, it's really set up for a good atmosphere."
Ex-Fighting Irish hockey star Stephen Johns, a defenseman on the Blackhawks' training camp roster, has been a sounding board for the club during its visit to Notre Dame.
"Everything I've heard from the guys is that they love it," Johns said. "They think it's an unbelievable facility. They especially love the rapid shot. It's very nice.
"The guys love the campus, too. A lot of them were walking around talking about how beautiful it is here. That makes me happy. I have a lot of pride in going here. There has been a lot of talk by the guys about coming here for a football game."
Leddy said many of the Blackhawks have discussed coming back to Notre Dame on their own.
"We've been treated unbelievably well here," Leddy said. "It's been a lot of fun here. I'd love to come here for a Notre Dame football game. That would be awesome. We got to visit the football stadium last year, and that was amazing."
Kevin and Gayla Compton are the lead benefactors of the Compton Family Ice Arena. The Comptons and other key benefactors spearheaded a drive to provide Notre Dame and the Michiana community with a first-class hockey facility. Blackhawks players said the Compton Family Ice Arena is not only on a par with NHL and Olympic facilities, but that it also has to give Notre Dame and Fighting Irish coach Jeff Jackson a considerable presence on the college hockey landscape.
"I think this facility gives Notre Dame an edge in recruiting," Morin said. "If you go to another facility and see what they have, it's hard to pass up Notre Dame with the facilities and everything else the school offers. You can't ask for more out of a facility than Notre Dame brings. Add in the history of Notre Dame, and that's really big for the prospects to consider."
For Johns, the Compton Family Ice Arena was a difference-maker.
"I remember when I was getting recruited," Johns said. "I walked into the Joyce Center and saw what was there for hockey. I wanted to come to Notre Dame, but there were other schools that had better facilities. Then I saw what they were building here, the Compton, and it made me come here right away. For me, personally, Compton was a huge recruiting boost."
-- by Curt Rallo, special correspondent