The Red Deer Speed Skating Club started off the winter ready to celebrate its iconic 50th year.
But after some careful digging, members discovered that the club actually started in 1952.
So the new year quickly became an even more storied mark, as 2017 will be the 65th season for the club.
Head coach Shawna Pearman has been the coach for 17 years, but remembers skating on the Golden Circle Oval with friends back in the 1970s. She said every year when the young skaters first take to the outdoor oval, the memories come flooding back.
“The oval has not changed,” she said. “I grew up in Manitoba, so when I came here and my kids started skating, I said ‘ya I can remember skating here.’ My girlfriend said the same thing. The oval hasn’t changed at all.”
While the both the oval and the club have stood the test of time, there have been some challenges along the road. Membership was a lot stronger when Pearman first started coaching, but now she says the group has become a much closer knit community.
“When I first started the club was a lot bigger. It’s had its ups and downs. It’s getting there, we have a really good close group now and that’s the most important part,” she said about the club that this year includes 46 skaters.
Pearman said the highlight for her over the years were always the accomplishments of skaters in national or international competition, which in the end create a legacy for young skaters to look up to. That includes her own daughter Maddison, who used to coach with the club and now skates with the national team in Calgary.
“We’ve had a number of kids come through our program that have skated with the national team,” she said.
“For the club that’s always a really good thing. People remember Jeremy Wotherspoon. But these kids don’t know. They need that next one. Maddison is one of them because so many of them skated with her. For some of them that’s a huge thing. We need that consistently happening every year.”
On Dec. 20, the club hit the ice for one of the first outdoor long track practices of the season. Pearman noted that for the young skaters who are starting to get a grasp on the sport, before the techniques and the meets, it’s all about enjoyment.
“For most of the younger kids, it’s just that they are enjoying skating and they are learning to speed skate. Learning the basic skills and having fun,” she said.
The club returned to the Golden Circle Oval on Jan. 3. At the end of January, the Red Deer Speed Skaing Club will host a meet on Jan 28-29.
Now just two years away, young skaters representing Red Deer could also be the ones representing their hometown at the Canada Winter Games in 2019.
The club will use the Golden Circle Oval this year for last time because the long track facility will be moved to Great Chief Park for the games.