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Do Professional Hockey And Yosemite National Park Belong Together?


Is Yosemite National Park ready for Freddie the Falcon?

Coming to the national park nearest you, professional hockey!

OK, not every national park, just Yosemite National Park. And really, it's semi-pro hockey, not the NHL.

But still, the question of whether this is an appropriate event for a national park bubbles to the surface. True, it's not as controversial as Toyota taking over Alcatraz Island for a private party complete with booze and burlesque.

But should there be a semi-pro hockey game played across from Half Dome and beneath Glacier Point?

Next Monday, the 14th, at 5:15 p.m. and again at 6:15 p.m. the double-A Fresno Falcons hockey team, and sidekick Freddie Falcon, will make an appearance at the Curry Village ice rink in Yosemite Valley.

Park officials are so excited about this that they're encouraging live satellite broadcasts of the event. "Special arrangements can be made to coincide with live shots during 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. broadcasts," they say.

Is this an attempt to compete with Disneyland?

Absolutely not, says Yosemite spokeswoman Adrienne Freeman. More simply, it's designed as a community event, one geared to the kids who live in Yosemite year-round and who even have their own hockey league, she says.

“I really do believe that it’s an opportunity for the kids in the club to come out to see some real hockey,” Ranger Freeman says. "If you question having the team play, do you also question having the rink? Many people do.”

But if hockey goes over big in Yosemite, what's next? Will the Billings Mustangs be invited to make an appearance at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park? Perhaps the Colorado Rockies can head up the road to Rocky Mountain National Park for an event.


Wow, that's a scary picture. Especially since I was the Fightin' Blue Hen mascot in college at the University of Delaware. Freddy looks a bit deranged. I wonder if they gave him a background check before they let him get near the kids!?

Actually, if it's a one-time thing, I don't see the big deal. Hockey is one of the few professional sports I still enjoy watching and it's one job in the US where illegal border crossers won't be taking over for less pay!

What is so egregious about this? A bunch of minor league hockey players skating in circles at Curry Village while the Fresno TV stations do live shots with their satellite trucks.

We're not talking about thousands of fans, or even referees keeping things even... just a promotional appearance in the community.

How, exactly, is the park harmed?

Merryland, I'm guessing the Blue Hen never put skates on during your time in Newark.

Will the for-profit hockey team pay royalties for their use (on TV) of the National Park? What rights do they have to re-broadcast images of NPS employees? What other for-profit enterprises can 'use' the National Park in this media-friendly way? Would my high-school hockey team be equally able to commandeer this piece of public property for an evening? In summary, how much policy review has this action received by our public officials?

TZ - You're not answering my question, just talking about a bunch of roadblocks you think should be put up before this happens.

How is the park harmed by two or three TV news trucks and two vans full of hockey players showing up at Curry Village for a few hours in the dead of winter?


You're probably right, the physical aspect of the park won't be harmed. But does that make it OK to stage this sort of event in a national park, whether it's Yosemite or Golden Gate NRA? Were the parks designed to be backdrops for promotional events? Should Yosemite Valley be a backdrop for a semi-pro hockey team?

I raised this question last year when Toyota staged a party at Alcatraz, and when the Charlestown Navy Yard was rented out to a major health-care company. Were those appropriate uses?

Now, part of the difficulty in answering these questions in connection with the Fresno Falcons is the fact that there is a year-round community in Yosemite Valley. What rights does the community have to entertainment? Should it be like Anytown, U.S.A., or should there be some limits imposed because of its national park setting?

Where do you draw the line? Would it be OK to have a circus come to the valley as long as the physical environment isn't damaged?

What about Yosemite's visitors, folks who might have spent several thousand dollars on a vacation to come enjoy the valley and are confronted by those satellite trucks with their bright lights? Do you think they expected that when they booked their vacation? Some might think it's fun, some might not.

I think the difference is clear. Unlike Alcatraz or Charlestown, you're not bringing in more than a couple dozen folks for this visit. The benefits to the team are minimal — will this honestly help them sell hundreds more tickets, and even if it did, would those ticket sales cover the costs of van rental, a couple hours on the road, gas, etc?

It's not like they're paying TV stations to come out. If the TV stations do, that's great for the Falcons. These aren't the giant trailers behind arenas that broadcast games live — these are The Fox 12 Mobile Newsroom, or whatever satellite truck the local CBS affiliate owns or leases because their microwave transmitters won't work at that range. They'll be long gone before the first room goes dark at the Ahwahnee.

How is that different from TV stations coming out to report live after someone falls or drowns or otherwise has a horrible accident that leads off the evening news?

So no, it wouldn't be appropriate to bring a circus to Yosemite. But if somebody can come in as part of community outreach and use existing facilities — a conference room, an amphitheater or an ice skating rink — then what does it matter?

I covered this league for a couple of years in my sportswriting career, and I know the kind of thing that's going on here. Nobody's driving up from Fresno to watch the Falcons carve the ice at Curry Village. It's quite possible the TV stations won't even show. If a line has to be drawn, draw it — but be realistic about where it's set and don't use slippery slopes to establish it.

I'll be right there in agreement when the next NHL Winter Classic is scheduled between the Maple Leafs and Wild on a pond at Voyageurs, or when the Asheville Tourists play the Arkansas Travellers on a meadow in the Great Smoky Mountains. But if a local organization — even a for-profit organization — wants to make a low-key visit to a residential area in the anticlimax of the offseason, I don't see the issue. Park workers' kids didn't choose to live there, and they shouldn't be deprived the benefits of city living just because their parents happen to live within one of the wonders of nature.

Mook -- I tried roller skates at the local roller rink once -- it didn't go over too well.

That being said, the two previous Blue Hens before me always wore roller skates and skated around the parking lot before football games.

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