Rink caretaker calls it a career

The Chariots of Fire theme song played over the loud speakers on his last lap around the ice surface in the Red Deer Arena.

The Chariots of Fire theme song played over the loud speakers on his last lap around the ice surface in the Red Deer Arena.

Terry Stone chuckles at the gesture but he quickly grows silent as he tries to keep his composure.

Chances are if you attended a hockey game at the old rink over the last three decades, you will have seen Stone commanding the Zamboni between periods. Stone has taken care of the arena since 1983.

His job title is officially facility maintenance worker but for the first 25 years it was caretaker.

“I like the caretaker part because it embraces what we are trying to do in the community,” said Stone, 67. “The arena meant more than hockey … It is bringing people together. Just looking out for one another and supporting one another.”

Stone flooded the arena for the final time on April 2, his 27,000th flood. The 1952-built Red Deer Arena will be demolished to make way for a new rink this summer.

“Volunteering is a big part of these facilities and if it weren’t for the volunteers, I wouldn’t have stayed the 33 years,” said Stone.

The Sylvan Lake resident will miss the people that crossed his path either at the hockey games or the people who stopped into the rink for a coffee during the day. There’s also the people who are down on their luck who came in off the street occasionally. He has gotten to know a few of them over the years.

Stone’s sidekick Kelly Miller, 61, has volunteered alongside him for about 25 years. The two hit it off over a cup of coffee at a game.

Stone was born in Drumheller and lived most of his life in Sylvan Lake. He is married to Brenda Stone, a nurse at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre, and they have three daughters.

Stone studied horticulture at Olds College.

Stone was working in the parks in Red Deer but at the time there were few permanent positions.

The city tried to keep people on during the winter so a lot of the staff worked in the facilities during the winter months. Stone worked at the arena for six or seven seasons before it became a permanent position.

While the bulk of the job involves fixing, painting and cleaning up, Stone said the memories associated with the games will always stay with him.

It was good hockey and there was quite a bit of fighting in the early days, he said.

“I am not really an aggressive person so I remember one of the first fights I saw on the ice,” said Stone. “I was dressed in my coveralls. That’s what we wore back then. I was going to go out and break the fight up … Unfortunately I didn’t but I can just imagine now if I had done that.”

There was the time the fans “picked up a bunch of fish and started throwing it on the ice,” laughed Stone.

“It was quite a rowdy crowd,” he said. “One group sat on this side and the other sat on the other side. Throwing things across.”

He will miss how the children would follow the Zamboni around the rink and take pictures with the Zamboni.

Stone will continue to volunteer and hang out with his friend Miller. He has been approached to look after the Bentley Arena but Stone said his rink days are over.

“I feel excited to open a new chapter,” said Stone. “I feel nervous about retiring and I feel sad too. It’s been my home.”

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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