KAMLOOPS — Mr Hockey honed his skills on the outdoor ice in and around Saskatoon. Walter Gretzky’s backyard rink was called “Wally’s Coliseum,” and it’s where The Great One learned to skate as a child. Skating under the wide open sky is possibly the most Canadian activity you can do in the winter, and there is a group of residents in Kamloops who have taken up the cause of creating an outdoor ice surface, funded and maintained by the city. Those residents hosted an event down at Riverside Park this weekend, to try and drum up support for their idea.
If you ask many Canadians, there’s no better to spend an afternoon, than skating outside, on a pond or ice surface. While it’s getting harder and harder to find good outdoor ice in the wintertime, there’s an organization in Kamloops working to bring a reliable outdoor rink to the city.
“We’re looking to just connect with the people, and see if that’s something they’re excited about because it’s something we think would be great,” Steve Gainey, spokesperson for the Kamloops Outdoor Ice Skating Association told CFJC Today.
From the age of 16, Gainey played hockey at an elite level for over a decade and a half. For him, some of the best times he had on the ice were on the outdoor rinks and ponds, with friends.
“For me, outside skating is really an enjoyable time to get lost,” Gainey remembered, fondly. “There’s no coaches out there to have their finger on you or tell you which way to turn. You can just express yourself freely with the puck, and stay as long as you want. You can get off when you’re ready, come back on when you’ve warmed up. You know, just spend your time, and enjoy it with your friends.”
The Kamloops Outdoor Ice Skating Association hosted an informational road hockey game Saturday, hoping to drum some interest amongst residents.
“I’m a little bit old fashioned,” said one resident who attended, adding “I have the idea in my mind of the pond or the backyard where you run a hose and you make due with mother nature.” She conceded the point that that kind of ice is getting harder to come by. “[The KOISA] have a point, with climate change.”
Another resident was all for the idea: “It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “It needs to happen, I think, for a city like Kamloops, that has a huge hockey following.”
Blazers back-up goaltender Carter Phair, who grew up in Saskatchewan was one of the several players in attendance, from the Kamloops Blazers. The Kamloops Storm also came to the event, as well as the BCMML’s Thompson Blazers. Fair said growing up in Saskatchewan, outdoor skating was a big part of his childhood. “I think it’s a great idea,” Phair said. “When I was a kid, I had tons of fun [skating outside] with all my friends.”
While there are some costs associated with running an outdoor ice surface, Gainey believes a facility would benefit the community, while utilizing an under-used public space in the winter.
“I know everyone is excited to hear more about [potential costs] before they get too excited about the idea [of an outdoor rink funded by the city],” Gainey explained. “Depending on what we do, how many rinks, how big the facility is… all those things are huge factors, ao to start throwing out numbers is a bit premature.”
The KOISA is urging residents interested in the idea of a permanent outdoor ice facility to attend the upcoming Public Input Budget Meeting, on November 15th at the Parkside Lounge at Sandman Centre to let their voice be heard.
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