Rinky Dink

Gateway owner, youth hockey backer spar over who's allowed on the ice.

Ice rink boss and political socialite Rodney Glassman has locked two operators of Tucson Hockey & Sports into the penalty box and barred the two backers of youth hockey from his Gateway Ice Center.

Jerrod Elliot, an organizer and backer of youth hockey who operates Tucson Hockey & Sports, says that Glassman not only has banned him and his grandson from Gateway Ice but also has tossed kids who wear Tucson Hockey jerseys.

Glassman, the 24-year-old son of wealthy Fresno growers, insists he has not prohibited any kids from Gateway Ice Center, built atop the former Gateway landfill east of the Wal-Mart at East Speedway and North Kolb Road. That property was declared a slum by the Tucson City Council 18 years ago, qualifying developers for low-interest government bonds.

"There is not a story here," Glassman, the vice president of the Icerink, Inc., pronounced. "If there is any suggestion that somebody is not allowed to skate because they have a Tucson Hockey shirt, I encourage you to wear a Tucson Hockey shirt into Gateway. You will be allowed to skate."

Despite Glassman's assurances, Elliot and his grandson Josh Gordon say they encountered such trouble getting their teams on Glassman's ice that they had to enlist Herman Zickerman, a longtime Tucson lawyer.

Glassman, who this year sought appointment to the Pima County Board of Supervisors even though he failed to live in the appropriate district, responded with one of his lawyers, Michael Crawford. Now part of politically powerful Tom Chandler's team, Crawford is a former political appointee, serving a portion of a term on the City Council from northside Ward 3 until he failed to win election in 1997.

Zickerman fired the opening shot late last month, telling Glassman, "in order to bolster the sales of the hockey-related products sold in the Iceoplex retail store you have banned from Iceoplex all skaters and teams who come with clothing or equipment purchased at Tucson Hockey & Sports. Further, you have instructed our client that any hockey teams sponsored by Tucson Hockey & Sports will be turned away, although local businesses remain free to sponsor teams and display their names and logos in the process."

As the only public ice-skating rink, Gateway was forcing skaters to "either give up their sport or shop at your store," Zickerman told Glassman, who changed the Gateway name to Iceoplex.

Zickerman said such exclusionary practice would violate state law on the establishment, maintenance and use of a monopoly as well as constitute intentional interference with Elliot's and Gordon's business.

Crawford fired a shot back at Zickerman on October 8, saying that a prohibition at Gateway against any skaters wearing Tucson Hockey clothing or using that store's equipment "is completely false."

Also false, Crawford wrote, was the claim that teams sponsored by Tucson Hockey & Sports will be turned away at Gateway.

What Elliot and Gordon were told, Crawford said, "is that organizations who purchase ice time (in this case Total Edge Hockey) have complete control over the teams participating in the their organization including who can sponsor teams in that league or club. It was Joe Hubbuch of Total Edge Hockey that apparently told your client that he could not sponsor one of the hockey teams participating in the Total Edge Hockey League."

In an interview, Glassman said the ice is sometimes controlled by the groups that rent it.

"If we rent the ice to you," Glassman said, "you could ban somebody for wearing a shirt that says 'Rodney is good.' "

Glassman's attempt, Zickerman replied, to pass off the responsibility to a renter for excluding Tucson Hockey & Sports is disingenuous. "Mr. Hubbuch did prevent my client from sponsoring a hockey team, but this was not an isolated and independent decision ... it was part of Gateway Ice Center's overall policy of excluding Tucson Hockey & Sports."

Zickerman said Glassman "unabashedly told" some of Total Edge's board members that he "was creating these policies to protect his vendor and exclude any competition from Tucson Hockey & Sports."

Crawford also complained that Elliot, who is 63, threatened Glassman, who was listed as a defenseman on the University of Arizona Icecats roster for one year. The Icecats practice at Gateway.

All Elliot and Gordon have to do, Crawford said, is tell Glassman they are sorry and promise not to solicit business while in Gateway, where skaters and visitors are greeted by a giant photo of Glassman and a warning to skaters and "spectors" to use caution.

Glassman's skate operations and his political ambitions are linked. Political signs of his favorites are staked into the ground outside the rink. While lobbying for quick approval for favorable changes to zoning conditions in 1999, Glassman offered free youth skating four times a year.

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