Grimshaw-update-PIC

The new outdoor rink rests on the site of the former Grimshaw Arena, where minor hockey players will hit the ice soon. ((Courtesy Angie Konowalyk))

On the foundations of a dead arena, hockey lives on in Grimshaw, Alta.

It’s been four months since a fire destroyed the Grimshaw Memorial Arena. It was the hub of the town, and its loss devastated the small community of 2,500 people, located 500 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.

Now an outdoor rink, complete with boards and floodlights, sits in place of the lost facility.

"It’s a well-built rink, that’s for sure," said Angie Konowalyk, vice-president of the Grimshaw Minor Hockey Association (GMHA).

If only the weather would co-operate better.

"We haven’t got hockey lines put on it yet, it's too cold," she said. The temperature has hovered around –25 C for the last few days, but with warmer weather approaching the outdoor rink might see some action soon.

"We're hoping before the end of January that someone gets some use out of it," Konowalyk said. A second outdoor rink also sits on the former arena's parking lot.

The GMHA has had to adapt to life without a home rink. It's helped that the town's neighbours have opened their doors to help the GMHA. Teams travel to Berwyn, Nampa and Hines Creek, among other areas, for practices and games.

"We had a lot more ice time donated than we needed, so that was good," Konowalyk said.

Kids excited to play outdoor hockey

When the idea for the hometown outdoor rinks came up, she said, the kids were all for it.

"When we first talked about building an outdoor rink they were quite excited," she said. "Because they look back at the Heritage Classic that they had outside for the [Edmonton] Oilers, so they were looking forward to playing outside.

"I think they quite enjoy it," Konowalyk said.

And it's significant that the rink rests where the heart of the community once stood.

"A lot of people liked where the rink was," Konowalyk said. "It was in the centre of town. It's kind of nice to have the outdoor rink in the same spot."

This isn’t the first time the GMHA has had to soldier on without an arena. Back in 2003 a windstorm ripped the roof off the former Grimshaw Arena, causing $1 million in damage.

Moving forward, plans for a new arena are being made, but Konowalyk said the new facility is still a few years away from construction. Until then, the GMHA will travel and use the outdoor rinks to keep the teams skating.

Since Grimshaw is likely to build the new arena on a different site, Konowalyk said, the town plans to keep the outdoor rinks where they are permanently.

"It's something that we'll always have.'