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Raymond Gallant is back in familiar territory.
Gallant, who spent five years as ice-maker at the O’Leary Community Sports Centre before leaving for a job in Alberton last year, unexpectedly returned to his old stomping grounds last week.
With the arena unable to fill the vacant ice-maker’s position before it was time to install the ice for the 2020-21 season, Gallant quickly stepped up and offered to volunteer to oversee the ice installation.
"Whenever he heard no one applied for the ice maker’s job, he was the first to say, ‘We can’t have the kids not skate at the proper times,'" said O'Leary Community Sports Centre manager Jeff Ellsworth, who added an announcement on the new ice-maker is expected next week.
"So, he said he’d take a week off and come in and put the ice in.”
Gallant, who continued to build ice this week, is only too happy to help.
“It is what we do,” said the soft-spoken Gallant, who had two sons, Alexander and Jacob, play minor hockey in O’Leary. “That is the way I was raised.”
Ellsworth said this is another example of the pride people have for community arenas. He went on to say there are “a ton of people” in the O’Leary area who are always willing to assist the facility any way they can.
“Raymond is another example,” said Ellsworth. “He knows the rink inside out and he learned from the best, Allan MacBain, who was here for 37 years.
“Raymond is, in my opinion, the best right now.”
Even though Gallant was not working at the Community Sports Centre last winter, Ellsworth said he must have called him "100 times" with questions.
Here's what was involved in installing ice in O’Leary this year:
- The first flood went on Friday, Oct. 9.
- The ice was painted white on Saturday, Oct. 10.
- The lines, circles, faceoff dots, goal creases and logos were added on Sunday, Oct. 11.
- Following that, the markings will be sealed and the ice will be built up.
- Raymond Gallant, who is leading the ice-making process, said he wants an inch of ice before anyone skates on it. He said the regular depth of ice is an inch and a quarter.
- The O’Leary Community Sports Centre is planning on opening for the 2020-21 season on Friday, Oct. 16.
Misses working at the rink
Gallant said it is nice to be back working on the ice and admitted he does miss working at the rink, although he does not miss the late nights working until midnight or 1 a.m.
But there is something about being in a rink that is special for Gallant, who has agreed to work some part-time shifts this winter.
“Any time you walk into a rink, it is the smell and you feel good about it,” said Gallant, who is originally from the Wellington area and now lives in O’Leary near the Community Sports Centre, which won the 2017 Kraft Hockeyville title.
Although Gallant downplays his efforts, others do not. O’Leary Community Sports Centre president Dr. Wade Sweet said the arena’s board cannot express enough gratitude to Gallant. He acknowledged the rink was “really in a tough spot” with installing the ice.
Sweet said Gallant’s efforts are another example of how volunteers are the lifeblood of community rinks.
“People have come together and rallied around this facility and this community,” said Sweet. “There is no substitute for it and it’s what makes this place a special place to live.”
Brendon Arsenault, acting president of the O’Leary Minor Hockey Association, praised Gallant’s attention to detail.
“Without him, there would be a lot of unknowns," said Arsenault. "Raymond sure does take pride in what he does and does a good job at doing that."
Gallant said it’s always special when the ice crew takes a few moments to check out the finished product before the first pair of skates cuts into the ice.
“The best part of putting the ice in, I found, was when you are finished you look at it and you know you did that and it looks nice,” said Gallant. “Then you have all the hockey players skating on it and scraping it all to pieces.”