On-ice programs scramble to find new arenas
Although finding a new rink for Dalhousie’s on-ice programs has been a top priority ever since last fall’s announcement that the campus arena would be demolished, university athletic officials could not have expected the headaches that would follow.
As has been long rumoured, the men’s hockey team and Dal’s recreational offerings are lacing up this season at the Halifax Forum; however, finding room for the women’s hockey team has been a logistical nightmare. Ice shortages in Halifax means the women’s team is actually leaving city limits in the second half of the season to play their home games in Truro, a 12,000-strong community about an hour north of Halifax.
Karen Moore, director of varsity athletics, said they exhausted every available resource to keep the team in Halifax.
“It’s almost impossible to find an hour of ice in the city, yet alone three hours,” says Moore. “Literally, this was our only option.”
Before the Tigers establish themselves in their new quarters, they will hop around the metro area for the first half of the season since Truro’s new arena cannot open until mid-November at the earliest. Venues for the early schedule of games include the Forum, Halifax Metro Centre and the St Margaret’s Centre.
Searching for a new home rink began late last fall when concerns arose that Memorial Arena could not handle the added snow load from the new residence being constructed nearby. A new arena is expected to be constructed in at least four years.
Fifth-year defender Miranda McMillan, who hails from Truro herself, says playing in a permanent rink come mid-season will be a blessing to the team—even if it is an hour from campus.
“The quicker we can get into a set routine, whether it’s in Halifax or in Truro, the better.”
Practices for the women’s team, along with the men, are being held at the Forum.
Truro’s new complex, the Central Nova Scotia Civic Centre, will have a NHL-sized rink with a capacity for around 2,600 seats. The facility will also include a gym complex with a pool and a running track.
A contract to play in Truro has not been officially signed, but it is considered a done deal.
McMillan said she has high hopes that with proper advertising her hometown will buy into the new team.
“There’s definitely good opportunities for some good-sized crowds, even more so than what we’re used to.”
Judy Smith, athletic director at the Dalhousie Agricultural Campus, sees potential for this experiment to succeed as well. With Dal having a presence in town ever since the Nova Scotia Agricultural College became the university’s fourth campus earlier this month, opportunities for the school to work together with the team playing in a rink 10 minutes away are there.
“Certainly the staff we have here are excited that there’s another sport, a women’s sport, coming to town,” says Smith.
The prospect of playing varsity hockey in Truro only became viable this summer when the Halifax Metro Centre, the largest arena in the HRM, could not commit to any time slots.
Pat Nearing, Sexton Athletics senior manager who has assisted the athletics department in this file, said they knew they could not select times before the QMJHL’s Mooseheads and NBL’s Rainmen, but when their early June deadline bled into July and then August, the university had to look elsewhere.
“It’s all hung up on those two major clients. Their hands were tied so we had to go looking elsewhere,” says Nearing.
Intramurals face shortages
While the women’s hockey team had to leave the city to find ice, Dal’s intramural teams and club programs have found residence at the Halifax Forum, even if it isn’t in the quantity the school wanted.
Dal will have over half the ice time it previously had to accommodate its programs, equalling to about 14 hours a week, a little shy from the over 20 hours dedicated to hockey at Memorial Arena. Shawn Fraser, senior manager of programs with Dal Athletics, explained the Forum was as flexible in their scheduling as possible.
“They know that we’re not there forever,” he says. “They can’t give up ice from some of their longstanding tenants.”
The ice shortage will see only 28 teams dressed for intramural hockey this season, down from the 40 squads last year. As a result of less ice time, the intramural broomball league is a casualty.
Fraser added they may look to further locales in addition to the Halifax Forum in the future if the demand is high enough.
“If we have a huge outcry, then next year we’ll need to talk again.”