Losing the “Old Barn,” a 40-year-old rink steeped in hockey history, was a blow to Central Alberta.
The ice community felt the loss of memories and tradition when the Sylvan Lake Arena’s roof partially collapsed under a heavy load of snow on Jan. 20.
But the community is bouncing back with its efforts to score the Kraft Hockeyville 2014 crown for the Medican Multi-plex.
Kevin Putnam, a former arena player, staff member and coach, now living in the Yukon, is one of the organizers behind Sylvan Lake’s campaign to win the prize of $100,000 in arena upgrades, a pre-season NHL game and visit from CBC.
Putnam said people have always looked at Sylvan Lake as a “hockeyville” with its rich hockey tradition and the quality players who came through over the years.
“With the rink collapsing last week, now seemed liked the perfect time to go for it,” said Putnam.
“What we would really like to do is go to the Kraft Hockeyville’s website and submit their stories under Medican Multi-plex community,” said Putnam. “And to vote for all the other (Sylvan Lake) stories.”
The Heart of Our Town … Gone Forever is one of the highest ranked stories on the website.
Putnam said there are more than 4,000 people on the Sylvan Lake Hockeyville 2014 Facebook page but the numbers are not translating on the Hockeyville website.
Putnam said the arena meant the world to residents and those who came to Sylvan Lake every summer for the hockey camps.
Arena operator Graham Parsons said losing the well-played rink was heartbreaking. Parsons had operated a long-running hockey school out of the rink for many years.
“I’ve been in there every day for about 28 years,” said Parsons.
“It was the busiest rural rink in rural Western Canada, especially in the 1980s and 1990s because there wasn’t much spring or summer ice around. All sorts of people came to skate here.”
Parsons gave a laundry list of NHL players and figure skaters who touched the ice over the years, including the Sutters, Chris Phillips, Curtis Glencross, Craig Berube, Chris Mason, Sean Burke, Ryan Smyth, Jarome Iginla and Kurt Browning.
“All different kinds of personalities have skated at this … little rink,” said Parsons.
He said winning the Hockeyville title would mean a great deal for Sylvan Lake.
What remains of the arena is expected to be demolished some time next week.
The arena was due for demolition in a couple of years to make way for a new multiplex.
The town already has concept plans in place for a new multiplex with an arena to be built on the same site beginning in 2016.
The adjacent multiplex remains closed until after the demolition because of the arena is structurally unsafe and there’s the chance of the roof collapsing into the multiplex.