Alumnus to play key role in NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament

John Opie’s passion for and impact on all things Quinnipiac hockey is omnipresent. For anyone who has cheered on the nationally ranked men’s and women’s ice hockey programs at any point over the past decade has likely benefited from his tireless passion — from watching a game on ESPN+ or SNY through the cameras he has operated to handing their ticket to him as they entered the M&T Bank Arena to feeling that surge of energy as he played music between whistles, his presence is known throughout the dual-arena facility.

Tonight, Opie ’19, MBA ’21, will play a new role at a different facility — ensuring the ice is in pristine condition at the Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, when the Bobcats take the ice in the NCAA Tournament against the Merrimack College Warriors at 5:30 p.m. He will be cruising around the ice on a Zamboni after warmups and during the first and second intermissions, ensuring the ice is in perfect condition.

“As a Bobcat alum, it means a lot to be driving at this weekend’s NCAA Tournament here in Bridgeport,” he said. “We’ve put a lot of time and effort into prepping the ice for this event and I’m excited that Quinnipiac gets to play here."

Opie is an experienced Zamboni operator, having prepared the 200-foot by 85-foot Fairfield County ice rink for events like the Bridgeport Islanders, Disney on Ice, Connecticut Ice and the 2019 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Regional. He has worked at the Bridgeport arena since September 2019.

“I started driving ice resurfacers when I was 16 at the Northford Ice Pavilion, which is the previous home to the Quinnipiac Braves,” he said. “At the Northford Ice Pavilion, I learned how to drive both Zambonis and Olympias, which helped diversified my skills in ice resurfacing. Different venues have different types of machines; the ones here in Bridgeport are natural gas Zambonis. I have also been trained in Engos and WM resurfacers, which are starting to make their appearances into the U.S. market.”

Opie’s passion for ice extends back throughout his lifetime.

“Although I never learned to skate, I have always been around the sport of hockey,” he said. “My younger brother started playing when he was young and my parents both coached. So I needed to do something to stay busy while everyone else was partaking in the sport. I started with equipment, managing team water bottles, sticks, stacking the pucks on the bench, etc.… Fast forward to high school and I was the team manager doing the stats, music, and the clock during games. It was in 2013-14 when I first started working at Quinnipiac. Eric Grgurich, the executive director of M&T Bank Arena, hired me to run the spotlight during starting lineups. Since that day, I’ve learned many roles within the arena, including fan engagement, game presentation, marketing, communications, off-ice officiating and event management.”

Those experiences have shaped his life so much that he ultimately earned his MBA in sports management from Quinnipiac in 2021. Since graduating he has created game scripts, communicated with the pep band during games, served as the in-game announcer, served as a score box official, coordinated and assisted with event operations, and performed countless marketing responsibilities. He has even served as the penalty box attendant and goal judge.

“Eventually I would like to be a general manager of a sports venue, especially one that has hockey,” he said. “I’ve worked for Eric for 10 years now, and I loved every aspect of Quinnipiac’s the venue. I have developed so much knowledge when it comes to different departments in venue, that I think one day that opportunity will arise, and I will thrive. I’m currently looking around to see what’s out there in the market, and I’m grateful to have these opportunities at Quinnipiac and Bridgeport to keep me busy in the meantime.”

However, in his immediate future, he will be playing another critical support role for his beloved Bobcats.

“Although the NCAA requires the staff to wear ‘non-branded and plain attire,’ I will definitely be wearing some basic game-day gold,” he said. “Feel free to stand up and wave when I’m on the ice. If I see you, I’ll wave back.”

Stay in the Loop

Sign Up Now