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Rick King has been helping to make the ice surface in Hantsport a reality for decades, despite not really using it himself.
HANTSPORT, N.S. — Although the weather has been relatively mild this winter, Hantsport residents still had the chance to enjoy an outdoor favourite.
The ice surface on the HMCC grounds, which doubles as a tennis court in the warmer months, has been a staple of recreation in the community for decades.
Rick King has helped to make that happen, along with a large group of volunteers, since moving to Hantsport decades ago.
“I moved to town in 1971 and at that point we had the old tennis court here and regular hockey boards around,” Rick said, standing between the ice surface and the clubhouse. “It was a real community event; a lot of guys came together on a Saturday, put the boards up and that was the beginning of it.”
King said the weather worked against them in the 1980s with warmer winters making it too difficult to sustain an outdoor rink, so the concept went on hiatus for roughly a decade before coming back.
The court that’s currently used isn’t perfectly level — and for King, that’s OK. It isn’t an NHL arena.
“It’s low on this side so we use higher boards — 2x12’s on the low side and 2x8’s on the high side,” he said.
Rick King says their biggest challenge with maintaining the ice is the weather, especially when dealing with mild winters.
The water comes from the Minas Basin mill line, which fills the court with water from the Avon River.
The rink sits on HMCC property, which is run by a board of volunteers.
“Usually in December or early January we set up the boards, ask for a few people to show up and usually there’ll be six to 10 people who help out,” he said. “The boards have to be screwed together and then we put a white plastic sheet down to reflect the sunlight, rather than attract it.”
King said it’s tough to get the sheet down and completely taut without getting air pockets along the surface.
“If we’re fortunate enough to get a small snowfall and just flood it, you immediately get a couple of inches of ice and then you build on that,” he said. “On days like this, where the sun is shining and it’s fairly mild, we keep it locked up so it doesn’t get cut up too badly so if it does get cold again we can resume.”
During Hantsport’s Winter Carnival, the weather was so mild that skating events had to be cancelled. Luckily the ice did survive so they were able to resume skating shortly after the carnival.
Rick King and his grandson, Brett King, 11, check out the ice surface in Hantsport. Brett King often uses the ice surface to play pick up hockey with his friends.
“One of the big problems are leaves, they can get frozen into the ice,” he said, pointing at a few sticking out. “We had a fair share this year because we didn’t have much snow in January. Not only are they a nuisance but they speed up melting.”
King, although passionate about making sure the community has ice every year, doesn’t use it himself.
“Without it a lot of kids wouldn’t learn how to skate or have a place to play hockey,” he said. “I just think it’s a great experience for kids to have a place to play hockey and skate outside; gets them away from video games and gives them some exercise.”
There’s no charge to use the ice, and for the most part, the rink is unsupervised except during organized events.
Rick King, left, and Brett King have a bit of fun on the ice, throwing snowballs at each other. Rick said he’s happy to help make the ice surface a reality year after year.
King also said he’s been extremely impressed with the care and attention that the community gives the rink, saying there’s been little to no vandalism of the ice.
“The older boys particularly are very good at cleaning the ice,” he said. “It’s community involvement that keeps it going.”
The rink recently received a grant from the Awesome Foundation to help with some upgrades.
“We have people come here from Windsor and all over West Hants,” he said. “We love to see people use it, that’s what it’s here for.”
During the relatively mild January, there were eight skating days with 15 in February as of Feb. 23.
King’s grandson, Brett King, 11, uses the rink to play pickup hockey with his friends and skating.
“It’s just really fun playing with all of my friends and it gets me off the couch,” he said. “I use it every afternoon after school and any night I don’t have hockey practice.”