Tuesday, March 21, 2017

IT'S REUNION TIME!


            I guess all of that talk about the 50th birthday of the Kipling Arena made me pretty nostalgic. It welled up a lot of memories of the past so you will have to endure one more column mostly dedicated to the theme of the Kipling Arena.

            Back in the 1970’s there was an abundance of hockey players and not just in Kipling, either. The Baby Boomers were coming of age and there were a lot of them. They were everywhere.

There were so many players back then that the younger minor hockey teams seldom had to leave town to find competition as they had a four-team house league in most of the age groups right here in town and they played against each other every Saturday morning.

Every now and then there would be a trip to a tournament or an “away game” somewhere and, to me, a road trip back then to Odessa or Indian Head seemed like it lasted forever for crying out loud and now we’re hiking eight and ten-year-old kids to Carnduff in the middle of the week? Times have definitely changed and I am digressing.

            In addition to all of Kipling’s minor hockey teams there were the Kipling Royals senior hockey team, the Pipestone Beavers Junior B Hockey Team who used the Kipling Arena as their home base and there was a “fall-through-the-cracks” Senior “B” team of guys who still loved to play the game but didn’t have the talent for the Royals or didn’t want to commit the time required to play senior hockey, or risk a job-ending injury in a body-contact league. The Senior B’s were a precursor to today’s Rec Hockey Teams playing in the beer n sausage leagues.

            After I finished high school I played more than a few games with the Senior B’s before joining the Royals for a few seasons but I didn’t get a chance to play for the Pipestone Beavers. Like many of my peers I tried out for the team but apparently the quota on string-bean right wingers with a soft backhand had been filled. Three years in a row. Again, with the digressing.

            In 2006 I helped organize a “Royals Reunion” and it was well attended and we had a lot of fun reminiscing, and, like many of these events we vowed to have one every five years or so. So far, we haven’t.

            I had many discussions with a lot of the old Pipestone Beaver alumni, too, many of which are still in the area, and it turns out that they have never had a reunion since the team disbanded after the 1976-77 season.

            Many of my close peer-group friends played with both the Royals and the Beavers and we share many, many hockey stories every time we gather for an occasion. Since the day I moved into Kipling Brian Gallagher had been one of my closest friends and he was an excellent goaltender for both of those teams. Brian passed away last June and as many of his old teammates and friends gathered to say goodbye we lamented the fact that we don’t meet as often as we should or as often as many of us would like. Again, the subject of a bigger reunion came up. This time we aren’t putting it off.

            So we are going to have the First Ever Kipling Royals Pipestone Beavers Hockey Teams Reunion on June 17th. There will be a golf tourney at Kingwood Golf Course, a supper and hours and hours of reminiscing and lying to each other about how good we used to be. A wobbly pop or two may be involved.

            We will be recruiting help and we will be calling as many of the old team members as we can so if anyone would like to volunteer or pass on any names of teammates past follow the contact information at the bottom of this article and let me know.

“What can ever equal the memory of being young together?” –Michael Stein, In the Age Love.

THE RINK-HUB OF A SASKATCHEWAN COMMUNITY


            The Kipling Arena is celebrating its 50th birthday this year. As with every other town, village or rural community on the Canadian prairies that constructed curling and skating rinks the Kipling Arena became one of the main focal points of the community. Residents really needed somewhere to go to while away the long, long Saskatchewan winter hours. You know, we were adapting to the elements, you might say.

            Did you know that Saskatchewan has more indoor rinks than Ontario? We do! Mind you, our weather may factor into that, don’t you think? There was a statistic that I read while I was in the recreation field which stated that Saskatchewan had more indoor rinks, especially artificial ice rinks, than the entire country of Russia. I am not sure if that statistic is still true today, but still.

            The rink has changed significantly in many ways since its opening day. Artificial ice was installed in the 1970’s and dressing rooms have been renovated or constructed continually over the years improving the amenities of the facility. Many rink improvement projects have been completed throughout the years through government grant monies, local municipal support and, of course, the backbone of any community…its users and volunteer base.

            I remember the pre-artificial ice days of the early 1970’s. I was a linesman for most of the Junior B Pipestone Beavers’ home games and we were still using hand scrapers to clean the ice between periods of the hockey games and they only flooded the ice during the second intermission. It was the same for the Kipling Royals home games.

            Volunteers would hand-scrape the accumulated skating surface snow into windrows and then shovel the snow out of two hatches in walls at the south end of the rink. These hatches were also an excellent way to sneak in to the rink to scoot around unsupervised while the place was closed. If one was prone to doing that sort of thing, mind you.

            Back then there was an old barrel and boom contraption that was used to flood the ice. A hose came up out of the basement at the north end of the ice and they filled a barrel that was attached to a bike-wheel cart and it had about a ten foot boom across the back where flannel was draped to smooth the heated water as it flowed out of the boom. It was pulled by hand and it needed about three barrels to do a complete flood, I think. It was interminable!! It took forever!

            Many a time I shivered and froze through two periods of hockey in a rink that was always ten degrees colder inside than it was outside only to sit for thirty-five minutes in a cramped hot referee’s room and have to reacclimatize myself to the frigid conditions all over again. Ditto when I was playing hockey for the Royals. I hated going back out for those third periods in -25C conditions.

            Back in my high school days the last event of the skating rink season was the Kipling High School broomball tournament. There was usually one to two inches of water on top of the remaining ice as we ran around soaked to the gills slipping and sliding in rubber boots, as no one had broom ball shoes. It was freezing cold, soaking wet FUN!

             Yes, when I think of the Kipling Arena I think of fun. I had a lot of fun times in that rink and I don’t think I’m done having fun there. Happy 50th Kipling Arena and here’s to 50 more!

“The Rink. A place where I’ve laughed but also where I’ve cried. Had my biggest successes and my biggest failures. It is where I belong.”- Pinterest Pin.

Monday, March 6, 2017

HAPPY 50TH KIPLING ARENA!

            It was with great interest that I read last week’s Citizen coverage of the 50th Anniversary of the construction of the Kipling Arena. Currently the “rink” may not meet the mid-to-late1960’s level of being the centre of the community’s universe, (53 rink bonspiels!! my goodness), but it is still a very vital structure as well as a cornerstone of our community.
            50 years! It seems like such a short time ago in our history but a lifetime ago in our memories. As they say, “if those walls could talk”, my, my, my what stories they would tell.
            The Kipling Arena was barely three years old when I crossed the threshold for the first time in 1970. I spent an awful lot of hours in that facility in many different capacities throughout the years. Fan, player, coach, referee, linesman, ice maker, PA announcer, bonspieler, cook… I even worked out of the Parks and Recreation Office in the northeast corner of the waiting room for four years from 2002-2006. I know that building intimately.
             There were numerous times when I sat alone in that massive wood structure while it seemed as though the walls were trying to talk to me. I wasn’t sure what they were saying but there was a lot of creaking and cracking and moaning and groaning going on in there. Most people would be a little spooked being alone in that old building with those noises going on all the time but I felt that if there were any spirits floating around the Kipling Arena they’d just be the ghosts of fun-seekers past. You know, benevolent spirits still having fun in a building built for that very purpose…fun…and in that capacity, it has been and continues to be a resounding success.
            I am reluctant to name names while talking historically about bygone days in our community, knowing full well that I will miss someone significant, but I can’t help but mention a few people from my early, early days in the rink. A few of the rink-dwellers from back in the day who made an impression on me for various reasons.
            People like “George Baker the Caretaker”. If you were to tie all of the skate laces together that George Baker tightened up for every little skater over the years they would stretch for miles and miles and miles. Ol’ George could skate like the wind, too. He loved skating.
            Then there was Frank Kashmere with his ever-present grease dripping burger flipper in hand standing in front of the hot grille cooking burger after burger after burger always with a smile on his face and a gruff-voiced tease to a waiting customer. Dare I say a cigarette ash may have found its way onto the cooking surface a time or two? Nah…
            Frank’s brother, Steve “Choopy” Kashmere, was another rink caretaker and he had a spot on the top bench at the south end of the waiting room bleachers where he’d hold court and critique the abilities, or lack thereof, of the hockey teams currently playing on the arena ice. Most of the time whatever they were doing was wrong! And Choopy was probably right.
            Most of my time at the rink was spent on the “skating” side but I had my share of wobbly pops in the curling lounge, too, over the years. I’m a terrible curler but I can bonspiel with the best of ‘em. Or could…that is.
            Safe to say some of the happiest moments in my life have happened in the Kipling Arena. So many memories. So many friendships made and moments enjoyed.
One column dedicated to 50 years of history seems inadequate so you’ll have to tune in again next week for “Kipling Arena 2-Point-Oh!” There are more stories to be told.

 “We didn’t realize that we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.”-from Winnie the Pooh.

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