Lacombe needs another ice surface.
That from Sandy Douglas, a Lacombe local who has been spearheading a motion to bring an Alberta Junior Hockey League team to Lacombe.
At a meeting last week to discuss the possibility of such a new team, it became apparent that before Lacombe can have another hockey team in another league, another ice surface must be made available first.
“What this morphed into is not a discussion of junior hockey but a discussion of (getting another ice surface),” said Douglas.
Currently, there are three main user groups (Lacombe Minor Hockey, Lacombe Ringette and Lacombe Figure Skating) competing for ice time in Lacombe. Douglas said that if there was an AJHL team to come to Lacombe now, it wouldn’t get the support it needs to be successful as it would just be seen as adding to the already stiff competition for ice time.
“I still want the Junior A team to happen, but before that can happen, we need more ice,” said Douglas.
He went on to say he foresaw the possibility that more ice might be needed before Lacombe could accommodate another an AJHL team.
He added that 30 years ago, he was very involved in Lacombe Minor Hockey and served as ice coordinator for the organization. He said that even then, ice time was tight.
“I’ve known we were short of ice for years,” said Douglas.
In the last few decades the problem has only gotten worse, said Douglas. He added it is not the fault of the City or council or the user groups, but it is still a problem that needs to be corrected.
Now, what he hopes to do is use the interest around bringing a junior hockey team to Lacombe to get Lacombe council to change its priorities and work toward getting at least one more ice surface for Lacombe.
At this point, the most important thing to all the stakeholders who use Lacombe’s ice as well as anyone interested in obtaining an AJHL team is to work together to bring another ice surface to Lacombe, he said.
Another ice surface seems to a common goal that those stakeholders are interested in working towards.
Brent Talsma, president of Lacombe Minor Hockey, said that he likes the idea of Lacombe having an AJHL team but said the community is in need of another ice surface even without one.
“I’m all for bringing hockey here,” said Talsma. “But the problem is we don’t have enough ice to facilitate what we have, let along bring in another team.”
Talsma went on to say that Lacombe Minor Hockey had 20 teams last season and already has to utilize ice in Bentley and Clive to facilitate its teams.
If its growth continues, it will have to start tiering at younger levels and making cuts to teams to make ends meet, something Talsma has tried hard to prevent already.
“We’re stretched to the nth degree,” said Talsma. “We don’t have enough ice time now. If we don’t address this now, there are going to be a whole lot of people in this town that aren’t going to be able to play hockey.”
The situation is much the same for Lacombe Ringette.
Lori Winslow, president of Lacombe Ringette, said that Lacombe’s ringette teams currently have to double up on their practice times to serve all the teams.
“We would welcome more ice,” said Winslow. “We normally have two teams on the ice at the same time. We would definitely welcome an opportunity to have full-ice practices.”
Winslow added that she supports the idea of bringing the AJHL to Lacombe as long as another ice surface is secured first.
“I think it would be great for Lacombe, but I strongly agree that we don’t have the ice time to devote to an AJHL team at the moment,” said Winslow.
Jan Pocock, president of the Lacombe Figure Skating Club, said that her organization differs from other stakeholders in that consistency has allowed them to keep the same ice times for the last decade and they do not need to schedule additional ice time for games like ringette and hockey teams.
She said while this means Lacombe Figure Skating does not have as many complications in acquiring enough ice time, another ice surface would certainly be appreciated.
“I’m not going to say we can never use more,” said Pocock.
She added that she thinks that sports in general are a positive thing for Lacombe so she would support a movement to bring another ice surface to the community.
“I think that minor sport is important to a community and however we can support it is valuable,” said Pocock. “I don’t care what colour the skates are, if they are white or black, as long as children are being active.”
Talsma and Winslow also expressed their desire to work together with other stakeholders in bringing more ice to the community.
Recently, Lacombe council approved a plan in principle to make upgrades to the existing dressing rooms at the existing arena in Lacombe.
Douglas said those efforts should be applauded because the upgrades are badly needed, but said it still doesn’t address the need for more ice in Lacombe.
However, Douglas also said he does not know where the funding would come from for a new ice surface.
The dressing room upgrades are still needed and even if the money for upgrades at the current arena were put towards a new surface instead, more funds would still be needed.
“It’s kind of a catch-22.”