The NAU IceJacks are a member of the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association) in divisions II and III. Formed in 1971, the NAU hockey team originally started in the Flagstaff Ice Arena (now Jay Lively Activity Center), but also played in the Walkup Skydome from 1977-1985. The team played as NCAA Division 1 from 1981-1986, but was dropped by the university after the ’85-86 season for several reasons, mostly financial.
After a four year break, the IceJacks returned to Flagstaff Ice Arena in 1991 and joined the ACHA. They have seen continued success, including making multiple national tournaments in Division 2 and Division 3. During the 2009-10 season though, Flagstaff encountered a massive winter storm. Snow started piling up on the 40 year old roof, and it eventually collapsed, forcing the IceJacks to play the remainder of their schedule on the road. The Jay re-opened in October 2010, and the IceJacks have continued their success. Both teams continue to be ranked near the top nationally every year along with Arizona State in Divisions 2 and 3, and have even beaten the Division 1 Arizona Wildcat hockey team when the intrastate rivals play in Tucson and Flagstaff every year.
The Jay is the only ice rink in Flagstaff, and was rebuilt after the roof collapse thanks to thousands of dollars donated by the public. It still has public skate times nearly every day, and is one of the few places in town to offer some kind of entertainment if you’re looking to go out with friends. Because it is still a public rink, hockey games are forced to start at 8:30 at night, but are still a great time even in the small space.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There's a table in the lobby as you enter where they sell pizza, hot chocolate and coffee. Other than that, there's vending machines in the hallway, but that's it for food. IceJack games are not the place to go if you're looking for dinner and a show. You can also buy NAU gear at the front tables.
When you enter, you pay in what is normally the skate rental lobby. The rink is just down the hall, and when you enter you notice there's not a lot of options as far as seating is concerned. Almost all of the bleachers are on the side you enter, with the team benches being on the other side. An unusual aspect to hockey at Jay Lively is that the penalty boxes are in between the benches, instead of across the ice.
The limited space puts every fan right on top of the action. Jay Lively also has lower glass than normal, but the netting goes all the way around the rink up to the roof. The roof is another oddity. It is so low that sometimes there are stoppages in play because the puck hits the roof. It does affect the game, it seemed like there were fewer icing calls and fewer pucks over the glass than a normal hockey game.
The limited amount of room for bleachers also means that a lot of people have to stand all along the rest of the rink. Both ends are two or three deep of standing room only. A lot of people come to support the IceJacks, and they know that there's a good chance that they'll be standing the whole game. But that doesn't seem to get people down, in fact some people love it because they get to stand right on the glass and bang on it every time a player is anywhere near them. It's also a little chilly since you are pretty much right on the ice, so dress appropriately.
There are scoreboards at both ends of the rink, both of which are very easy to read. No video boards here, which is not surprising for the size of the arena. The sound system is definitely not first class, in fact it's not much more than a home stereo system set up in each corner. It's not a problem for most of the game, but if the crowd is booing a controversial call or banging the glass after a big hit, it does become a little difficult to hear the PA guy. Intermissions leave something to be desired though, they need to put in some kind of promotion or game or something.
All of this said, the building is electric during the game. The amount of fans packed into the small viewing area, and how dedicated the fans are is what makes the atmosphere at IceJacks games so great.
Jay Lively Activity Center is located more in the north central part of Flagstaff, which is mostly medical buildings and an enormous USGS complex. The official postgame party was at Sportman's Bar and Grill, which happens to be the closest sports bar to the arena. Not too far away is Downtown Flagstaff, where you can visit Maloney's, Uptown Billiards, Diablo Burger, and many others.
Downtown also has a lot of local shopping if you are looking for an original Flagstaff gift or keepsake from your trip. There are a lot of art galleries in downtown, and the Orpheum Theater still has concerts. The Green Room downtown is a good place to go see local music. The Museum of Northern Arizona is just a short drive west and north from Jay Lively.
Diehard and dedicated are just two of the words to describe IceJack fans. There may be seating for 600, but closer to 1,000 show up to root on the Jacks. If you were told that you were going to a Division 2 college club hockey game, and that you were going to have to stand behind one of the goals the entire time, you would probably say no. But these fans couldn't care less. In fact, standing behind the goal just makes it easier for them to try and distract the goalie, making them more a part of the game. Of course, the long continued success of the programs makes this possible. More publicity and more success may necessitate a new rink with more spectator room because they are so crowded right now, but that is a ways down the road.
Jay Lively is located on Turquoise Dr., north of Forest Ave. You can get on Forest Ave. on Fort Valley Rd. (Hwy 180) if you are looking for the nearest "highway". If coming from the east side, turn onto Lockett off of Route 66. Eventually Lockett turns into Cedar, which eventually turns into Forest.
Parking is a little bit of an issue. All of the parking is free, but you will probably not be able to find a spot in the actual parking lot if you get there closer to game time. The parking on the nearby roads and park are not a very long walk from The Jay though.
Since there is no real concourse and no food or concession stands, walking around the main hallway is pretty easy, not packed with people waiting in line. The vast majority of people just stay next to the rink the entire time. Games going from 8:30-11 probably work out better for the IceJacks since it's not a high-demand food and drink time of day.
To get in to IceJack games, it costs $5 for students and $7 for regular adults. Not a bad price for being able to sit or stand right on the glass no matter what. The high level of play year in and year out makes it a better value too. It may be Division 2 and 3 club hockey, but the pace of play and amount of excitement are both outstanding.
The uniqueness of the penalty boxes being in between the benches adds a variable that you don't usually see in a hockey game. A lot more yelling and poking fun at guys in the box. Being guaranteed a spot right on the glass is another extra. It's kind of reassuring that no matter how late you get to the game, you'll be right on top of the action, even if you do have to stand.
Even though it's small, and a lot of people have to stand for the entire game, Jay Lively is probably the perfect place for a team like NAU to have its hockey games. They'll always have a rink, because the people of Flagstaff will not stand for not having a skating rink, as they showed when the roof collapsed in 2010. The city wasn't going to rebuild it because of the lack of funding, but the public stepped up and got it rebuilt. With just a few more bleachers put in the corners and ends, it would be the ideal place for a Division 2 hockey team to play. They've got the fan base and success on the ice, all that's left is a few fan amenities.
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1000 North Humphreys Street
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