It’s something standard in Saskatchewan for many small towns.
The local hockey rink is synonymous with the culture of many in the province, but for the people of Perdue, it’s something they’ve been missing for almost four years.
Their rink burnt down on May 23, 2015, which devastated the community, and was a loss in not only the town’s history, but the history of hockey in the province.
Don Clark, Vice-Chair of the fundraising committee for the arena rebuild group, was away at a spring hockey tournament in Regina when the fire destroyed their old arena in the community that is 60 kilometres west of Saskatoon. He remembers the day vividly, as he got back to the hotel; his phone started ringing non-stop from those sharing the news. It was immediate disbelief on his end until the pictures started to come in.
On the following Monday, a meeting of the people on the board of the rink and concerned citizens looking for the first, and next steps for what to do in the community of just over 300 citizens. As soon as some of the questions were answered, the council voted to go ahead with the rebuild, Clark said.
“From there, a couple groups (were formed), we went to work and had a wide array of knowledge and input from those people and committees,” he said. “Everybody put in a lot of hours, and a lot of hard work in.”
It took the whole community to come together to get the rink started. Clark said that they were given pieces of land by local farmers to harvest, and to begin raising enough money to get the rink up off of the ground. Through that, dances, trip of the month tickets and other fundraisers, they were able to secure the funds to start from scratch
Although the community knew they were going to get another rink built, many looked at the project and the long road ahead with disbelief. They knew, it would become a reality. Their group, coined “One Rafter at a Time”, started on the dirt work, proving the small group of naysayers wrong. Clark said it was a long way back, but when the actual groundwork began, they knew this was going to be something special.
“This is for sure a reality,” he remembers saying to himself. “They got the shell up, the fundraising went hard, a lot of guys spent a lot of hours, a few people stuck their head in and started saying ‘this is starting to look like a rink’”.
The project didn’t come without a few moments of despair, however. With the struggle of the harvests in the past few years, culminated with the battle with the weather. They had half an inch of ice inside the rink coming up to the prospective opening day, and then the mild temperatures battled back and melted the entirety of the new rinks ice. They made a formal announcement that they would be moving back the opening day of the new arena.
“All of a sudden all the air went out of everybody,” Clark recalled. “Everybody was pretty pumped that it became a reality, then boom, it’s not ready to go.”
The weather finally cooperated with the icemakers, who were community volunteers, and they were able to get the ice in and get it to stay in for this past weekend. The village held its “Hockey Day in Perdue”, which featured the first games back on the ice in the Saskatchewan community.
“It’s unbelievable how much a community can pull together. We’ve got guys in their 70’s painting trim, cutting boards, to kids (that are) 7 or 8 walking around picking up garbage. It’s a whole array of the whole community.”
Throughout the process, the volunteers knew that they needed a rink for the kids and the community, to play hockey and to figure skate, and pull the community back together. Clark echoed the culture that a rink brings to a town of Perdue’s size, and knows that for many, including himself, it’s a way of life in the long winter months.
“Everybody that’s grown up in a small town,” he said. “We probably spent two or three nights a week in the rink. Whether it be a (supporting) senior team, watching or playing a game ourselves, it’s a gathering spot for everybody to get together.”
Clark wishes to thank the many volunteers that put in countless hours on the project, and everyone in the community for being supportive, whether it came in the form of donations, or support through fundraisers. He said that they have built quite the arena for a town of that size to come out, and enjoy for years to come.
In closing, Clark summed up how much a rink really means to the people in the community, and what it means to get it off the ground, and running.
“It makes the town complete,” he said.
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