WinSport rink closures put Calgary hockey teams on standby

Hockey teams are scrambling to find ice time in Calgary this week after WinSport closed three of its four hockey rinks.

Ice time already difficult to find in Calgary, association president says

Three of four ice rinks at Winsport are shut down as the facility tries to repair a chiller. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

It's hard enough to find ice time in Calgary — and the closure of three out of four hockey rinks at WinSport due to a mechanical problem isn't making it any easier, says the president of a local hockey association.

Calgary's Sledge Hockey Association is among the associations that regularly uses the WinSport arenas, and president Alan Halbert says the closures have forced the association to reschedule at least one game and likely miss another this weekend.

"We're on standby for certain practices and certain spots we have on the ice just due to repairs they have on the go right now," Halbert told the Calgary Eyeopener

The problem at WinSport is a malfunctioning chiller, which cools the liquid pumped through pipes to maintain the ice surface. The organization said it's working to fix it as soon as possible. 

Halbert's been looking for other opportunities to get on the ice, but says there's not much available. Outdoor ice isn't a possibility for the association, since the ice is often rough and the edge of the rink isn't always accessible enough for players.

He says he's looked for ice time since last June. 

"It's definitely a challenge," he said. "The only times that are available are six in the morning or after 10 at night which isn't conducive to a program for kids or for people that need to get special transportation."

According to an email sent to team representatives, there isn't likely to be a second sheet of ice until Feb. 23, but all four rinks are expected to be functioning by March 1.

"I'm just hoping that WinSport's doing everything they can to get things done and shifting everything they need to as fairly as they can," Halbert said.

The crunch for ice time in Calgary was so bad that even before the WinSport closures, teams were looking far and wide for rinks to rent.

Many teams have been flocking as far away as Canal Flats in B.C.'s East Kootenay region, which has become a mecca for Calgary teams looking to host an out-of-town hockey tournament. 

The Canal Flats arena manager told CBC last November that about 1,800 Calgary kids play on his ice every year. It's booked up every season and has had to turn away 35 to 40 tournament requests a year.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener