For the last few years our hometown has petitioned to keep our old rink from being torn down. To call it an “old rink” is to put it lightly. It has been around for 90 years and has been the site of hockey moments and memories for so many. There is so much affection for this old barn. I don’t think we realize how a place that we go to with our kids, day in and day out, can become a time capsule for memories that last a lifetime. Actually, for many, the place we take our kids to hockey every week can also be the very place that we also grew up playing.
Long before I was a hockey Mom, I spent many Sundays at the Memorial Arena watching my brothers play. Those games were exciting because you could sit on the sidelines and watch all the action as if you were on the ice with the players. The other thing I loved was that you could hear everything. I heard many things, that I’m sure weren’t appropriate for my ears, but that was the best part. I remember going to one of my brother’s games when his teammate, who happened to be the star player, was getting chirped badly by all the parents. He was so good and he had a brother who played in the NHL. The parents were extra hard on him and they loved to make comparisons. The kicker was he also had a really bad temper. As the mean comments continued from the stands, he became more and more agitated. Finally, he stopped skating, looked up at the parents in the stands and yelled “SHUT UP!” The lack of insulation and hollow walls allowed for his words to echo throughout which made the arena feel like it was shaking. When the sound of his words finally subsided, the silence is what became a defining moment and it was beautiful. At that point you could have heard a pin drop. It may not have been the most politically correct way to handle a situation, but I guess he thought if the parents were allowed to act that way, he could too.
The Memorial became such a source of important memories for me that I even dedicated a small paragraph in my book about it. It reads:
… I found our seat in the stands at the old Memorial arena. This was before they put mesh up in all of the rinks so it was practically like being on the ice with the players. The floors were plywood and made the best sound when you walked on them. It was so old and it smelled like wood, greasy French fries and hockey equipment. I don’t think there is a person in my hometown that played hockey that doesn’t have affection for this old barn. It was the people who came from out of town who hated this rink. It was nearly impossible to get to the dressing rooms so you’d have to carry your equipment through the stands. It was like watching a comedy sketch seeing these poor “out of towners” navigate their hockey bags to the dressing room. We kept it a secret that there was a set of doors around the back of the building that would get you to the rooms no problem. It almost felt like that rink helped us win against the out of towners, like I said before we had a great affection for that old barn.
In honour of the Memorial arena, and old barns everywhere, I want to end with this thought: The next time you drag your young player’s equipment into that old, stinky, cold arena with the bad seating and hot dog smell, remember the moments it’s offered. Someday you might long for those nachos with the melted cheese or the fries cooked in the grease that you know had been there too long but tasted so good. One day, I promise you, you’ll miss that old familiar feeling of walking into the lobby that takes you back to a time when you were carrying your own bag. Don’t dismiss these old places, they’re your history and inside those freezing cold walls are the memories that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
- Written by Allyson Tufts