Tuesday, March 21, 2017

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.

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