le Samedi 25 mars 2023
le Mardi 2 février 2021 15:56 Hawkesbury

Skating Rinks: A ‘Renaissance’ In This Covid Winter?

Driving around the Hawkesbury/Champlain/East Hawkesbury area on a sunny but cool Friday afternoon, my wife and I inventoried public skating rinks and took a few pictures : crowd on the premises, condition of the ice, adjoining facilities, Covid rules in place, …Here is a list of open public skating rinks in the area:

Champlain township: Mill Park, Vankleek Hill, L’Orignal Park, L’Orignal and Miner Park, Carillon Gardens district.                                                                                                City of Hawkesbury: Cadieux Park on Kitchener street,  Larocque Park on Abbott street, Old Mill Park was closed.                                                                                                   East Hawkesbury township: Samuel Reilly Park in St. Eugene is open but restricted to residents only; no indication of a public skating facility in Chute-à-Blondeau or in Ste. Anne-de-Prescott.                                                                                                                                                         Rules and restrictions: sometimes indicated in full view, sometimes available on municipal internet or FB site, sometimes no indication at all on premises;                                                 i.e. no hockey, maximum number of 10 on the ice, helmet recommended, social distancing recommended, face covering recommended, alcohol prohibited, chalet facilities not available, use at your own risks.

If you happen to be grandparents and your grandchildren happen to ask you ‘What it was like in the old times…’, feel free to use my experience as a reference if they won’t trust your memory or react with something like ‘It was that bad, really? Allow me to roll time back to the 1960’s-1970’s; this is not a rambling exercise, or reminiscing, or stepping back in prehistoric times, it’s COMMUNITY HISTORY 101!

‘In those days, community life was more active than it is nowadays; winter was a season everyone anticipated with thrill: rinks would go up in late fall in a frantic community bee; small communities/villages would normally have two rinks: the official community rink where league hockey and broomball games against neighbouring villages would be held and the school rink, normally managed by brothers and religious groups since schools were their territory then; we would be using heavy wide metal snow pushers and shovels to clean the ice and we used to think it was part of the fun to do so; once the rink cleared, we would put on our Jean Beliveau skates, grab our $3 wooden Victoriaville hockey stick, often only held together by a double wrapping of black tape, and our hockey puck and play hockey till we dropped, ears, fingertips and toes tingling from near frostbite; on Saturdays, girls would show up: we would bring our small handheld transistor radio, turn them on as loud as can be with entertaining music by the Monkees, and probably if we dared to, invite one of these girls to skate along, HOLDING HAND (probably first female holding hand with besides mother’s and sister’s…); some of those girls were pretty wild: they would steal a few Matinees from their mom’s cigarette pack and ask us to share the puffing (maybe also a first for some of us, addicted to Popeye’s or black licorice cigars…) We would go at it day after day after day, seven days a week, until spring’s first thaws. Watching our rinks go were very sad and depressing moments until…we could take our bikes out. And thus was the cycle of seasons when we were kids!’

OK, maybe your story was only able to put them to sleep and that’s fine! But you certainly had a great time reliving those precious moments of your life as a kid!

What’s The Future Of Outdoor Skating Rinks?

The typical outdoor rink is quite different in its nature from the indoor rink: it tends to be more of a social, less competitive and more relaxing environment, home and school being top one-and-two environments. In addition to obvious physical health benefits such as aerobic, cardiovascular and muscular fitness, it also promotes enhanced mental health benefits such as reducing stress and favoring social interaction and acceptance. It is also a place to make great memories, whether as a kid, a teenager, a parent or a grandparent; overall, community rinks improve a community’s quality of life, as family rinks improve family ties and create great memories and traditions within families and networks of close friends.

These last few years, the greatest enemy of outdoor rinks has been one we have no control over and can’t match: global warming. Snowfalls and thaws and rainfalls and freezes play yoyo with our projects and actual days of use of an outdoor rink have been steadily decreasing, thus the appearance of the market of those snowless rink systems. It is heartbreaking that outdoor ice rinks are threatened in Canada, and a cruel blow to our nation’s capital, home of the largest skating rink, the Rideau Canal. And I am sure it always is one of the saddest moments for outdoor rink fans to see their gathering spot melting away. But it is also the start of a new cycle of seasons and cycle of fun. And hopefully, a Covid-free cycle! Thanks to the cities, townships, villages and communities we live in for investing funds and policies that allow everyone to benefit of outdoor rinks; and a special bravo! to all the families and neighbourhood groups that perpetuate this tradition.