DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Hockey Hall of Famer Ray Bourque, who spent most of his career with the Boston Bruins, joined Gov. Janet Mills to formally open the Piscataquis County Ice Arena here Monday. The $5.5 million project is funded by the Libra Foundation and being managed day-to-day by Foxcroft Academy.
“It’s pretty impressive what the Libra Foundation has been part of here, building this rink and giving the kids and the community and the school a great facility to play hockey and to learn the game and really have some great memories — and if some kids dream big to maybe play for the Bruins someday,” Bourque said after the ceremony in-between signing autographs and posing for pictures.
“The lessons you learn as part of a community that has this kind of facility is really special,” said Bourque, who concluded his career by winning the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. “For me it’s about respect and working hard and having fun, listening and going out and having fun but working hard. Pay attention, respect your coaches and teammates, and go from there.”
Bourque said he still enjoys watching hockey, including following his two sons’ professional careers. He regularly watches the Bruins on television and attends several games each season. “I lived the dream for 22 years. I am a very lucky guy,” he said.
“I think it’s important to have a facility like this to give the kids the opportunity to come out and see if they like hockey, and if they like skating,” Bourque said. “It’s opportunities for boys and girls. There’s great opportunities for girls now at all levels of hockey.
With a podium set up at what will be center ice once the frozen surface is in place for the upcoming winter season, Libra Foundation President Jere Michelson welcomed all those in attendance sitting in the seats above the boards that will accomodate 250-300 fans.
Michelson mentioned various ice activities will be held including curling, broomball, “the honored traditions of public ice skating and figure skating and, as many of you today are eager for, the rebirth of hockey at many levels.”
“Without the buying in and encouragement of community and a dedicated partner in Foxcroft Academy projects like this don’t work,” Michelson said.
Libra Foundation Chairman & CEO Craig Denekas said he has been asked frequently why the foundation has been building the arena and has created an artists colony up Route 15 in Monson.
“The bottom line is we have come to know many of you in the audience and people in your communities,” he said. Denekas said the foundation has learned that Piscataquis County has “simply some of the best places to live in the United States, period.”
He cited the beauty of the region and the natural resources, “and the economic potential that is second to none. People crave what you have here, and they seek it out.”
“We think the future of Piscataquis County will increasingly be the future of Maine,” Denekas said.
“I have to say, on this brisk fall day in Maine with more than a whisper of winter in the air, the opening of a heated ice arena with locker rooms, restrooms and a concession stand sure beats the pebbled pond I used to skate on in Farmington,” Mills said before thanking the Libra Foundation and Foxcroft Academy.
“Ray, your presence here today will inspire so many Maine people as they lace their skates up for the first time on this ice — thank you for your support and for your visit to Maine,” Mills said.
Mentioning NHL players with ties to Maine, the governor said, “Let this arena serve as our next all-star’s training ground and his or her success be driven by the community that built it.”
Foxcroft Academy Board of Trustees Chair Richard Swett said most county residents live within 30-35 minutes of the Piscataquis County Ice Arena, with other such sports facilities being located at least an hour away. He said the ice can be removed to allow for trade shows and meetings.
“I suggest we use this generous gift from the Libra Foundation as a catalyst for more economic and community development,” Swett said.