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Sundre Arena user groups excited about extended season

Ice surface expected to be ready roughly three weeks earlier than usual
SUN midget Huskies Captain
The Sundre Minor Hockey Association looks forward to getting players practising on home ice several weeks earlier than usual this season. File photo/MVP Staff

SUNDRE — It’s time to sharpen the skates a little earlier than usual.

Provided the municipality’s plans fall into place, the Sundre Arena’s ice surface is expected to open on Monday, Sept. 20.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” said Sue Nelson, the town’s community services manager.

Last year’s installation of a new ice plant enabled the ability to start the ice-making process earlier. Whereas the arena previously wasn’t available to the public until after Thanksgiving in October, the upgrade makes available the option to essentially extend the season by several weeks.

The plant is to be turned on Sept. 7, followed shortly afterwards by the effort to flood the ice with the goal of ensuring enough time to properly prepare the ice before opening to the public, said Nelson.

“We want to give ourselves enough time, but we also wanted to give a definite date for minor hockey and the rest of the user groups to be able to make their plans,” she said.

The Sundre Minor Hockey as well as Sundre Rec Hockey associations have both already booked tentative dates, she said.

Minor hockey

“We’re super excited,” said Amber Jenkins, the minor hockey association’s vice-president.  

Previously, the organization sought ice time out of town in Caroline to get the players on the ice earlier.

“We’re looking forward to not driving to Caroline for practice when we have an arena in town,” said Jenkins, adding the association has booked ice time on the arena’s Sept. 20 opening day.  

Although no clinics are lined up, there is general enthusiasm about being able to start practices sooner, she said.

All things considered, registration went well, she said, adding the association will be fielding teams in the initiation, novice, peewee and midget categories.

“We’re just down two age groups,” she said, adding there weren’t quite enough players to form U-11 atom or U-15 bantam squads.

Rec hockey

The Sundre Rec Hockey Association, which always used to wait until after Thanksgiving to start its season, will for the first time be getting players on the ice before the end of September.

“It’s nice to get on the ice sooner. We’ll get about three more weeks worth of ice time this way,” said Shawn MacNeil, the association’s president.

“We don’t rent ice out of town anywhere like minor (hockey), it just means we get to start our season earlier,” MacNeil said, adding parents seem eager to get players back out on the ice a little sooner.

Registration remains underway, and he said numbers are a bit ahead of where they normally would be at this time of year.

“But we moved our start time up,” he said on Aug. 25.

“We’ve got about half the numbers of what we had last year so far — usually our numbers don’t take off until September when everybody gets back to school. So, we’re happy with where we are right now,” he said.

The association has booked ice time starting Saturday, Sept. 25 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“That’s the tentative schedule,” he said, adding the season will get underway with Val Norrie, from Norrie Power Skating out of Bowden, who is expected to provide three sessions with each of the association’s tiers.

Skating club

While the Sundre Skating Club had not, as of last week, yet officially booked any ice times, the organization’s executive planned to meet to discuss the possibility.  

“We think it’s awesome,” said Lyndsay Stange, the club’s instructor who also coaches for the Olds Skating Club.

“We’re definitely excited to get more ice time — a longer season will be nice,” Stange said.

She added the club’s leadership plans to gather early in September to decide on scheduling ice times for the coming season, which she figures will remain Tuesday and Thursday evenings as in past years.

Like rec hockey, the skating club also used to wait until the arena was ready in October before getting skaters on the ice.

Registration, which remains available throughout the year, will get started in tandem with the upcoming annual community recreation registration event scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 9 at the Sundre Community Centre and River Valley School from 5 to 8 p.m.

“Watch out for us at the back to school barbecue,” she said. “That’s where we get a lot of our registrations coming in from.”

The club offers more than figure skating courses, and also provides lessons introducing kids to the basics of skating through the CanSkate program, she said.

“We take registrations all year long and they’re always welcome. As long as they’re potty-trained and they can talk, we will take them and teach how to skate,” she said with a laugh.

Looking forward to the season ahead, she hopes to be able to bring back the annual carnival, which was cancelled last year.

“If all is in our favour, we would hope to be going back to the fun meets that we used to go to prior to COVID and have a carnival again this year.”

Trial run

Although the municipality plans to open the arena sooner this season, whether a September start becomes permanent remains to be seen.

“We’re going to see how well it goes this year,” said Nelson. “Every year is different, because you never know what September weather’s going to be like.”

But a used dehumidifier the municipality purchased, which just recently arrived and had yet to be installed when she spoke with The Albertan, could facilitate the effort to open sooner in the future.

Yet even if conditions are perfect and equipment operating optimally, permanently opening early will also largely hinge on how much ice time is booked. After all, an ice plant requires plenty of power to keep running, and maintaining the ice surface as well as scheduling staff to work at the arena if the facility isn’t being used enough, might not be economical enough to justify continuing, she said.

“So, basically, this year and next year is going to be our testing to see how much earlier we can do it.” 



Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel is the editor of the Sundre Round Up and a longtime columnist for other publications of Mountain View Publishing.
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