The Dalhousie University Tigers have been without an on-campus home rink since the Dalhousie Memorial Arena was torn down in 2012.
Since then, Dal ice sports organizations have been based out of the Halifax Forum. Among them is the Dalhousie Ringette Society and its teams.
“We haven’t had a rink in [nearly] nine years,” Alan Saade, coach and club manager at the Ringette Society said in an interview with the Dalhousie Gazette. “ We’ve been fighting for ice time.”
The Forum is not a Dal-exclusive facility. With the influx of local teams and clubs like minor hockey and skating programs, its two ice surfaces book up fast.
That’s left some clubs, like the Dalhousie/King’s Figure Skating Club (DKFSU), in a tough place. With the sparingly available ice, the club can only offer ice times on Monday afternoons and Friday mornings, which is during class for many students.
“We’ve had conversations around how some people cannot make 3 to 4 p.m. ice times on a Monday afternoon because of classes or work,” Delaney Henderson, the DKFSU’s president, said of the issues the Forum’s ice times provide. “It’s wonderful Dalhousie helps us access ice times at the Forum, but it can be frustrating for some skaters not making sessions since they’re not necessarily primetime hours.”
Long commute from Dal campuses
When Dal announced the new Events Centre’s plans in June, the fact that “the Halifax Forum does not present an attractive opportunity to Dalhousie Athletics and Recreation” was the main reason why an investment into an on-campus arena is necessary, the statement said.
Two of three main reasons Dal provided for its 55 per cent reduction in ice sports participation since 2012, according to Dal Athletics, include the lack of available ice time and inability to acquire primetime hours on the ice.
The third reason is the Forum’s distance from the Studley and Sexton campuses.
“Many of the first-year girls don’t have vehicles as they typically live on campus where everything is within walking distance,” said Shane Galley, president of the ringette society. “The Forum is a great rink [but] it will be nice to have a close rink.”
Like any sport, ringette includes gear that needs to follow the team wherever they go to play. Because of this, public transit isn’t an option, posing a problem for Saade.
“Travel is a problem. I have to coordinate with all of the girls to see who is coming with who, which players need a drive, who is bringing the gear,” he said. “I [often] have to make two trips in order to get all of the gear [to the rink].”
Henderson said the Forum’s distance from Dal has put some skaters at unease or even scared away participants from joining, especially for those new to Halifax and not familiar with the city.
“One of the questions new participants ask is ‘Where is the rink on campus?’ When they find out they have a long walk or have to take the bus, some people aren’t as keen to join,” she said. “Some make it work and that’s great, but there’s definitely a level of disappointment for them knowing they have to commute to a rink not super close to campus.”
Potential turning points in clubs’ histories
A new rink will mean a great deal to all of Dalhousie’s sports teams, but for low-publicity groups, like the ringette society and the DKFSU, the Events Centre provides a chance to grow and promote their sports.
Henderson said the skating club has wanted to hold a showcase for a long time but has been unable to without the available ice time. The Events Centre could change that.
“People work on their skills and different things throughout the year and they have interest in holding a showcase at the end of the year, but we’d have to outsource extra ice for that,” she said. “We’re excited for all of the opportunities that could come with access to more ice.”
Within the ringette society, there are two groups; a non-competitive club that gives everyone a chance to play and a competitive team that competes for national championships.
As the only Atlantic Canadian team that plays in the national championships, Galley said she hopes the Events Centre could put the team on the map.
“A home rink would give us the opportunity to host a national championship,” she said, adding with most of the team’s players coming from elite backgrounds in the sport, the team could showcase its talent and boost popularity. “I think that would create more school spirit. We’re really passionate about the sport.”
Saade feels the same way.
“I can’t wait for that new rink.”
–With files from Luke Dyment