By Mark Campbell
It has been a trying fall for the West Hill Golden Hawks, the hockey league and its players who call Heron Park Arena their home. The arena has been closed since November 11 when an early season snowfall exposed the need for emergency repairs to the roof and thrust the hockey season into chaos. City-run skating classes were cancelled immediately, and Golden Hawks volunteers began working with the city’s permit office to relocate hockey teams in order to accommodate games and practice times.
According to House League General Manager Kevin Mercer, “There were bits and pieces of ice at a variety of arenas, but what we needed was a block of times to get our games scheduled.” In all, 72 hours of ice time needed to be rescheduled per week. With the support of the city, they were able to get time at several other arenas across Scarborough, including Agincourt, Centennial, Commander Park, Malvern, and McGregor Park.
On a positive note, some kids even got a chance to play at the new outdoor rink at McCowan District Park. “We got the city to open McCowan Park one week early to accommodate our younger players,” said Mercer. Players in the Novice division (ages 5-8) got the opportunity to play their games on the outdoor rink, despite a lack of timekeeping and scoreboard facilities. Kids also had the chance to take advantage of the new skate trail at McCowan before and after their games.
Armen Tootikian, a coach in the Atom 1 division (ages 9-10) talked about the impact this has had on him as a coach: “I’m more diligent [with] email updates to parents to ensure that they’re aware of the new venue and time of games.” Practices have been a challenge too as “the location and time slot changes, sometimes weekly. The most inconvenient part is that all four teams (in the division) are on the ice at the same time.” He notes that this makes it difficult to work on specific things to improve his team.
Tootikian also indicated that the closure has influenced his immediate family. “We haven’t gone public skating this year on Sundays like we did last year.” His kids also go skating with their school and are concerned that this activity is in jeopardy. “I’ve volunteered in the past for some of these skate days and know by the turnout that the kids really love it.”
While a few have spoken out, for the most part parents, coaches and players have been supportive of the league and its efforts. In one of its earliest communications, the Golden Hawks made clear that any discussion of refunds or makeup games for cancelled ice time would not happen until all activities had returned to Heron Park.
When asked about it, Mercer maintains that the city has been in constant contact with the league and repairs are expected to be completed in order to re-open the arena on January 2. Providing the work goes according to plan, the next games are scheduled at Heron Park for January 4.