By Kellie Hwang
A bar in an ice rink: That might seem like a stretch, but, then, an ice rink in the desert can seem pretty strange, too.
For some East Coast and Midwest transplants, the bar at the rink is like a second home.
Many of these transplants unwind at the new bar and restaurant at Scottsdale's Ice Den, 18 Degrees, after men's-league hockey games, or they stop by to carbo load before them.
It's a place where the camaraderie moves off the ice and onto the barstool.
“You get too amped up after a game and can't go home, so coming to the bar is the only time you can work off that energy and bond,” said hockey player Peter Menna, 41, of Scottsdale. “You get guys from different walks of life and different ages who come together to play and hang out and nothing else matters.”
Tommy Hess, 31, of Scottsdale, the assistant amateur hockey director for the rink who is from Michigan, spends a good portion of his time at the Ice Den even when he isn't managing games.
“Back home, there's a bar in every rink, so 18 Degrees really feels familiar for us,” he said. “Playing a game and drinking some beers with the team goes hand-in-hand…There may be tension out on the ice during the game, but after, everyone leaves it out on the ice and just has a good time.”
Peter Piper Pizza used to be where 18 Degrees is now, and the hockey players especially were happy with the change to a more adult-friendly service. The upscale sports bar is decorated with hockey sticks hanging from the ceiling, framed black-and-white photos of players on the ice and plenty of flatscreen TVs showing NHL games.
The giant windows give a perfect view of the ice, so patrons can enjoy a cocktail without the chill.
Arcadia resident Heather Krimm, 26, comes every Monday night to see her fiancé play.
“It's great to be able to sit here with friends and be able to watch a game with a glass of wine in my hand,” she said. “At other ice rinks, I have to sit in the stands, feeling cold and miserable, and sneak a drink in my purse.”
Other nearby options like Temple Bar Sports Grill and Four Peaks used to be the after-game spots but Krimm said the players appreciate a bar that shows hockey games on television and makes them feel at ease.
After each game, players filter into 18 Degrees and start pushing tables together, taking over the sports simulator near the entrance. 18 Degrees manager Jared Maroon makes sure that tunes by Nirvana and the Beastie Boys blast through the speakers before the players come in.
“It takes them a while to come in here after a game because those hockey bags are huge, and they'll pack some beers in them and drink down in the locker room after the game,” said Maroon, chuckling. “Then they come in and pretty much take over the place.”
Scottsdale resident Nick Eggert, 25, fondly calls the parking lot of the Ice Den the Black Top Lounge because that's where he and his teammates used to drink beers before 18 Degrees was built. Now they go through about seven or eight kegs a week of their preferred beer: Molson Canadian.