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MIAMA President Spotlight: John Cole – St. Paul Academy/Drake Arena

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Name: John Cole

Organization Name:  St. Paul Academy and Summit School Drake Arena

Address: 1712 Randolph Ave.         

City: St. Paul              State:  MN      Zip: 55105

Phone #: 651-696-1346



Tell us how you got into the industry?

I actually fell into the industry.  I started out part time as a way to make some extra money.  I found I really enjoyed it and I also wasn’t too bad at it. Over time the rink grew on me and I was able to come on full time.


How many years have you been in the ice arena industry?

I am in my 11th year.


What is the best part about working in an ice arena?

I really enjoy the people. I get the chance to meet so many people from all different backgrounds. I can’t lie though, I really love a fresh perfect sheet of ice.


Using one word, name one thing you love about working at a rink?



Nobody’s perfect in this industry. Tell us your worst experience at a rink so far?

Well, I have been pretty lucky so far, but I do have one that stands out to me.  I was driving for a men’s college game a number of years ago.  It had been a really busy night and while doing the ice in between periods, I did the first two laps entirely without water.  It did not go unnoticed and was quite embarrassing.


What are the first three things you do when you get to the rink each day?

I like to know what is going on for the day. I first take a look at my calendar and the ice schedule.  I also like to know what went on the night before, so I take 20 minutes or so and take walk around the building.  Then I check the ice plant to ensure things are running smooth.


How do you feel ongoing professional development is helping you and your career?

Professional development has honestly got me to where I am today.  Between the knowledge gained and networking it has been worth its weight in gold.  Almost every time I have been to a class, conference or event, I have been able to bring something back to my rink that has helped us be better.


How would you explain to the average hockey parent how the ice resurfacer works to resurface the ice?

I always tell people it is actually a pretty basic system with a lot of moving parts.  I tell them the business end is in the back.  There is a blade that takes a layer of ice off which is then collected by two augers and thrown into the big bucket up front.  Then a layer of water is put down by the towel to make new ice.


Who would you like to acknowledge for helping (mentoring) you along the way?

It is a long list, but to name a few…Dean Mulso, Jon Balvance, Dale Hanson and everyone at R&R Specialties.  I would be where I am today without Eric Edhlund, he has taught me most of what I know and has been a rock of support for over 10 years.


What is the best tip you have learned from any of the classes offered through MIAMA?

It is honestly really hard to name one tip, I take something from every class I have taken.  I think one of the best ones I have learned is to empower staff.  They are often the eyes and ears of the rink.  I listen to them because they often know about something going on that I may never have seen.


Why did you want to get involved with the MIAMA Board of Directors?

I got involved with the board because I have a huge desire to help our industry continue to be great.  There are so many unbelievable people in this industry and to help represent them is awesome.  I wanted to help build the educational opportunities and help MIAMA continue to grow strong.  It is an honor to serve as President this year.


How has being involved with the Board of Directors influenced your career?

I have gotten to know some really great people through serving on the board.  As well as work with some of the leaders in our industry from around the country.  I love talking about what we do here in MN and learning about what is happening in other states.  I have been able to be part of the planning for the Fall Conference the last two years and that has been so beneficial for me.  I have gained experience in communication, planning, organization, all of which will benefit me here at the Drake Arena every day.


As president of MIAMA for 2016-2017, What are you hoping to accomplish for MIAMA?

There is currently a lot of planning going on for the joint Conference with the ISI for this coming spring.  We are also hoping to bring the Conference grant process to a new level.  Treating the grant process as more of a job application has the potential to get more people involved.  Taking a class is part of the grant award now and I think that is so important.  Education can be costly and having the chance to even take one class through the grant can be provide so much knowledge. 


As a member of the MIAMA board, what advice can you give to the newer members within the industry?

Don’t be afraid to jump in the deep end.  You may find out some things about yourself that are really great.  Talk to people and learn from every conversation you have.  If you have ideas, share them.  Having a desire to make your rink better should never be looked down on by your superiors. And finally, have fun.  We have some of the best arenas and operators in the world and I think that is pretty cool.




Jon Balvance

MIAMA Communications Director

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