By Jim Hynes
Hockey is back.
Not the on-again, off-again variety played by the league of millionaires who will be gracing us with their return this weekend, but the “shinny” type played by thousands of Canadians on outdoor rinks and frozen bodies of water across the country. And, more precisely, it’s back at McGill, one of the places organized hockey got its start more than 130 years ago.
For the first time in many years, members of the McGill community can go for a skate on campus while practicing their stickhandling and wrist shot – in almost exactly the same place some of the first hockey games in history were played.
The ice rink on lower field, traditionally reserved for broomball and usually funded and managed by the Engineering Undergraduate Society (EUS), is now also being used for recreational skating and, yes, hockey.
Officially dubbed the Iron Rink, as it has been informally called over the years in reference to the iron ring given to recently graduated engineers, the ice surface is a joint effort between the University, which initiated the project, the EUS and the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU).
“There are not a lot of outdoor winter activities for people to enjoy on campus, and people had expressed an interest in playing hockey in the past, so we thought we would give it a try this year,” says Paul Guenther, a Physical Planner at Campus and Space Planning (University Services) who coordinates the management of the rink on the University’s end.
Safety concerns and a lack of funding have been obstacles in the past. Two years ago, the University operated a recreational skating rink. But the prohibitive costs of maintaining it meant it didn’t return last year. Now, Guenther says, with the participation of the EUS and SSMU, and through streamlining the costs, running the rink has become feasible for the University once again, and hockey enthusiasts across the campus are rejoicing.
“It’s great,” says U3 Engineering student Alex Lunan, who had much of the rink to himself as he skated back and forth with a stick and puck Wednesday afternoon. “There is a really strong McGill connection to the history of hockey, so it makes a lot of sense for us to play hockey here.”
That said, as with any public facility where hockey players and skaters have to share the same ice, there are rules (posted rinkside), and etiquette, to follow, and organizers are hoping that common sense and courtesy prevail when necessary. One main thing to retain: the lunch period (12-1:30 p.m.) is reserved for recreational skating only, and group bookings (see below) always have priority.
So far, the rink is reportedly well used, particularly in the evenings, even though it remains unlit for the time being. And that’s good news for those who want to see it back in winter 2013-14.
“For it to return next year, it needs to be successful this year,” Guenther says.
Group bookings of the Iron Rink can be made via the EUS by calling 514-398-4396 orvisiting their office in Room 7 (Ground Floor) of the McConnell Engineering Building.