Video of Sask. hockey rink's 95-year-old staircase grabs national attention online
One of Saskatchewan’s oldest hockey rinks has garnered national attention for its unique features and unusual design.
The community rink in Lang, Sask. just turned 95 years old and still has much of its original infrastructure, including what players call the “catwalk.”
The catwalk is a drawbridge-style staircase that players use to go from the dressing rooms in the attic down to the ice surface.
“It’s counterweighted with some cement blocks so you slowly come down it and it’s supposed to slowly draw down,” said rink board member Mike Williams.
“When you’re done you push it back up with your hockey stick and away you go.”
A video of two men’s league hockey players nearly getting stuck on the staircase went viral earlier this week.
This has to be the craziest way to get on the ice we’ve ever seen, TSN said on Twitter
“That was probably the only time I’ve ever seen anyone have an issue with it to be honest,” Williams said.
All ages get to use the catwalk when they play inside the Lang rink, including the U9 Milestone Selects who played against Regina on Wednesday night.
“It was kind of scary. I was scared I was going to fall onto the ice,” said Selects player Ryder Moon.
Moon, 8, said her father learned to skate in Lang’s rink and her uncle used to play for the hometown team. The significance was not lost on her during her second time at the rink.
“It’s pretty cool,” she said.
“I really like playing in these old barns.”
Moon said the rink’s makeshift Zamboni is another highlight.
Volunteers flood the natural ice with a green barrel on two wheels that they fill with hot water. A mop, custom-made by a woman in town, is attached to the back.
The contraption is about 70 years old, according to Williams.
“Every now and then we try to make some engineering improvements to it, but over the years it’s done us well,” he said.
A volunteer operates the walking Zamboni. (AllisonBamford/CTVNews)
This year, Williams said they were able to hire someone to be the official Zamboni walker. But in previous years, volunteers take turns each night scraping and flooding the ice, which is about 80 per cent of the size of a regular rink.
NDP leader Carla Beck was born and raised in Lang. She called it a “rite of passage” when she was finally old enough to push the scrapers on the ice.
“It was unique and in a town of 200 it took a lot of people pitching in and making sure the ice was cleaned in time for the next period,” Beck said.
“It’s more than a building. It’s a place where people learn some independence—the first time you get to go down those stairs by yourself, the first time you get to scrape the ice.”
According to volunteers, Lang’s natural ice is fairly unique.
Mike Saip, has been volunteering at the rink for the last 35 years. He helps put the ice in every season, using both town and rain water to flood it.
“It makes nice, natural, hard ice. I don’t think there’s many other rinks out there that you’re going to find with this kind of ice,” Saip said.
“Big city rinks compared to this, it’s quite a difference.”
The rink is known for creating memories for every generation.
Beau Bechard played in Lang 30 years ago. He still remembers the stairs and the cheering fans hanging over the boards on the second level.
The Lang community rink was built in 1928. (AllisonBamford/CTVNews)
Bechard now coaches his young daughter and gets to watch her play on the very same ice that he did.
“Just thinking back to all the memories I had growing up and her getting to experience this is pretty cool,” he said.
“I’ve noticed from coaching that the kids all just love coming to these old rinks.”
Williams said the rink is a “second home” that the community is trying to keep for generations to come.
The rink board recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to help cover maintenance and repair costs.
“It’s not cheap to upkeep an old barn like this,” he said.
Volunteers recently replaced the puck boards in the rink. Williams said it took two and a half summers and 1,000 man-hours to complete, and cost $18,000.
It was a lot of work, but he said it’s worth it.
“We just want every next generation to get to experience what we experienced, whether it’s unlimited ice time or just the nostalgia of getting to play in your hometown,” Williams said.
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