Monday, April 29, 2013

Tent versus Taj

I definitely vote for the term hockey tent to describe the new facility being built at Central Park in Collingwood. Maybe it will be gorgeous and wonderful when it is finally finished, and maybe I will spend many a happy hour gliding on its ice. Maybe I'll even finish up my Silver dances, like I planned back in the late 80s before breaking my wrist on a complicated turn. Maybe.

But I will continue to think of it as merely a tent, impermanent and fragile, especially after I saw what another community has managed to create instead.

I had the great pleasure of spending a spontaneous Saturday with a girlfriend and her family in Whitby. Part of our itinerary was taking her two kids to their lacrosse practices, indoors on one of the - ready for it-- SIX hockey rinks in the same building. That's right. Six. One building. Six rinks.

Every single rink was in use, all day. In winter, my friends tell me, they're all outfitted with ice. "Whitby's a big hockey town," they explained. This weekend, three surfaces were dry and warm and the site of lacrosse practices for little kids, (you have not lived until you've seen a five year old girl in shoulder pads, rushing the coach, learning to crosscheck - hilarious!) the rest were still covered in ice. There must have been some sort of tournament, because some hockey players appeared to be arriving in costume.

Outside the rinks, four baseball diamonds. I didn't go looking for a pool, but there is one, 25 metres, plus a wading area. Six tennis courts, a soccer pitch and a 400-seat restaurant. All owned by the town. Inside the arena - concessions are rented to the chain restaurants and there's free wifi.

Of course, Whitby is a much bigger place than Collingwood. With a population of 122,000, it's about six times bigger. And yet, this facility, at least 10 years old, has six rinks, attached with a central hall. At two other facilities, there are four additional ice surfaces. None of them is covered by a tent.

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