Memories of the intense cold, the camaraderie and the scratchy old public address system came flooding back to pro hockey player Steve MacIntyre when he heard the old arena in Kindersley, Sask., had burned down.
MacIntyre, 29, who has played in the NHL and is now with the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, grew up on a farm near Brock, Sask., but spent much of his spare time playing midget hockey at the Kindersley arena. He affectionately calls it "the barn."
After he heard about the fire in January, MacIntyre called up his mom, Candy, who still works at the credit union in Kindersley. She in turn placed a call to the NHL Players' Association, which offered $30,000 to help out.
The money will be spent on new goalie equipment for the community's minor hockey program and on new sleds, which are used by disabled hockey players to slide on the ice surface.
Players such as Derek Dorsett of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets and Curtis Glenross of the Calgary Flames also cut their teeth as junior players in the small, west-central Saskatchewan community.
"With every small town in Saskatchewan and across Canada, the rink is a lifeline of sporting events in the wintertime and summertime," said Steve MacIntyre in an interview from Rochester, N.Y.
He said it was always a big deal for the family to go into town to take in a Kindersley Klippers game or even watch a rodeo in the summer.
"When I heard that it burned down, obviously it was pretty depressing," he said. "There's a lot of history in that old rink."
The town plans to rebuild.
Hockey 'the heart of Canada'
The cost of the fire at West Central Events Centre on Jan. 8 is expected to exceed $1 million.
Candy MacIntyre said she told the players association that anything it could do would help.
"A lot of the kids didn't have any jerseys. Some of the equipment was stored in the rink and it was completely destroyed. We've all kind of pulled together and are grasping from all different avenues to put it behind us."
Some of the youngsters have been forced to play on outdoor hockey rinks, while others are being taken by bus to surrounding communities to play in other small-town arenas.
Sherry Magnusson, the chief administrator of the community of roughly 5,000 people, said she's astounded and gratified at how quickly sporting groups, individuals and companies have come forward with offers to help rebuild.
"It speaks to (the fact that) hockey is at the heart of Canada and that hockey is at the heart of a lot of rural communities across Canada and North America," she said.