Hockey in Florida is hotter than hot following back-to-back championships by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Now, AdventHealth Center Ice has strengthened its connection to the Bolts, through a new hire.
Glen Metropolit, a former Tampa Bay Lightning forward, has been selected as the new director of AdventHealth Center Ice’s Global Prospects Academy.
The academy provides a tailor-made educational approach — giving students a chance to combine intensive hockey training, along with scholastic pursuits.
Gordie Zimmermann, chief executive officer for AdventHealth Center Ice, announced Metropolit’s selection during a news conference last week at the five-rink facility, off Cypress Ridge Drive at the Interstate 75 interchange, in Pasco County.
The academy is part of ice center’s mission to build a “developmental pipeline” for future hockey players – both boys and girls – who want to play on college, professional or Olympic hockey teams.
About 30 students are expected to enroll in the program, which will more than double the previous year’s enrollment of 14, Zimmermann said.
North Tampa Christian Academy will provide the academic curriculum, with Global Prospect Academy students attending classes at North Tampa Christian, which is about three miles from the ice rink.
A classroom dedicated to academics also is located at the ice rink.
North Tampa Christian will provide transportation between the two sites.
The program will be crafted to meet both academic requirements and hockey training schedules. Pasco-Hernando State College also will provide college course opportunities.
“It’s a highly competitive academic program,” said Stephen Herr, North Tampa Christian’s headmaster. “They are going to get a top-notch education. They are going to get academic scholarships they hope for, in addition to athletic scholarships they and their parents have dreamed of for so long.”
The program provides an opportunity previously not available to area student-athletes, Zimmermann said.
“Kids were going to Michigan or Boston to play hockey. There were no programs in Florida. In the future, we’ll grow and include other sports we have here,” he said.
Figure skating could become the second ice sport for a program like the one the academy provides for youth hockey players, Zimmermann said. It also will recruit students nationally and internationally, he added.
He mentioned one family from the Czech Republic that is considering a move to Pasco so a son can enroll in the academy to play hockey. They also have a daughter who figure skates, Zimmermann said.
They are just one example of the broad-based interest in the new academy, Zimmermann said.
Before accepting his new role, Metropolit served as assistant director and head coach for the Lightning’s U18 Elite Training Program for high school students from grades nine through 12.
The former hockey player had stints in several national and international hockey leagues, and is an inductee into the ECHL (formerly East Coast Hockey League) Hall of Fame.
He also is a recipient of the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy, an annual award bestowed to a hockey player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.
Metropolit describes hockey as “the ultimate sport.”
Of his new appointment, he said: “This is just another way I can give back and help hockey players reach their goals.”
Metropolit’s staff includes Stan Neckar, former National Hockey League and Tampa Bay Lightning player; Nick Lindberg, former professional hockey player; and John Drysdale, a USA level 4 certified coach, a bronze certified goalie coach, and a former youth development director.
Zimmermann noted that the interest in hockey, in general, has grown steadily over the past five years.
“We’ve probably doubled the size of youth hockey in Florida,” he said.
AdventHealth Center Ice provides considerable opportunities for those interested in developing their talents, and for spectators who enjoy watching sports.
The facility is the largest ice sports training in the Southeast, with one Olympic-sized rink, three National Hockey League style rinks, and one mini-rink.
It also boasts locker rooms, a fitness and sports recovery center, off-ice training area, full-size restaurant and bar, concession stand and pro shop.
It hosted the 2018 U.S. Women’s Ice Hockey Team training program, and the team went on to win Olympic gold.
Adult and youth leagues play there, and it attracts special events — which, in turn, has a positive impact on Pasco County’s economy.
Visitors to the area to attend events at the ice center often stay in area hotels and spend money at gas stations, at restaurants and at area attractions.
By Kathy Steele
Published August 18, 2021