© Ryan Cooke/Journal Pioneer
Dave MacDonald, along with Duane and Jessica MacDonald, have worked long and hard to keep the arena in Bedeque open this season. With the Kraft Hockeyville competition closing soon, they hope to get a late boost from the community to give them the funding they desperately need.
BEDEQUE – With two young children in minor hockey, and a lifetime of memories contained inside the four walls of the Bedeque and Area Recreation Centre, Dave MacDonald couldn’t let the doors close for good.
After taking a spot on the board of directors for the Bedeque Area Minor Hockey Association in September, MacDonald knew there wouldn’t be a lot of money. However, when he learned the stadium doors would remain shut, he and other community volunteers sprung into action.
After assembling an emergency meeting, they decided to form a new board of directors for the rink. With Kevin Schurman at the head and a solid contingent of volunteers, they got things in motion.
“We didn’t have any money,” he said. “We were in debt. We had all community volunteers. Everybody came through, and we basically opened the rink with no staff.”
The volunteers put in all the dirty work necessary. They gathered supplies and donated from their own pockets. They scrubbed the toilets, swept the floors, and manned the canteen. They even got down on their hands and knees and painted the lines.
Big hearts and elbow grease can only go so far though, and with a failing brine pump – an integral part of their 65-year-old ice plant, which was purchased used from Summerside in 1973 – the arena is on thin ice.
“We’re one breakdown away from not being able to keep it open. We just don’t have the money.”
That’s where Kraft Hockeyville comes into the story.
MacDonald and the group of volunteers decided to enter Bedeque into the running for this year’s competition, which sees communities from all across Canada vie for the 16 monetary contributions, totaling $1,000,000. The top two finalists win $100,000 for arena upgrades, and the winner will host an NHL pre-season game in the fall. The remaining 14 finalists win prizes of $50,000 and $25,000. With voting closing on Feb. 9, Bedeque will need all the help it can this week.
The contest could be a last-ditch effort to save the small-town rink, which has been teetering on the brink for years. To let it fall by the wayside would be a major loss for the community, and for his family, MacDonald said.
“For me, it’s for my kids,” he said. “I want them to be able to have a place where they can come and play. This rink gives a chance to a lot of people who wouldn’t regularly be able to play.”
The arena plays host to several groups of rec players, including a program they affectionately call Donuts – like the Timbits hockey program for children, except for adults.
“These are adults who have never played the game before, for the most part. So they get the chance to go on the ice with an instructor and practice the basic skills for a half an hour, and then scrimmage.”
It’s a successful program in Bedeque, with 46 adults signed up and three ice times allotted weekly.
Making their ice available to everyone, old or young, is one of the board’s top priorities.
“We try to keep it a lot more affordable,” MacDonald said. “Our minor hockey rates are a lot lower than others. For parents who wouldn’t have the chance to put their kids in minor hockey, we give them the chance.”
The Hockeyville page is filled with stories from Bedeque locals, explaining why their community should be a finalist in the contest. The stories range from emotional pleas to keep their community rink alive, to pictures of children in minor hockey, learning the basics. All total, there were 54 stories posted as of Sunday afternoon.
“You can really see why it means so much to people,” MacDonald said. “Their stories on there are what really makes it special.”
To support Bedeque’s Hockeyville bid before voting closes next Sunday, visit http://krafthockeyville.cbc.ca/, create an account and choose Bedeque & Area Recreational Centre as your rink of choice.