No long track, no problem for P.E.I. speed skaters

Two P.E.I. speed skaters have been travelling back and forth to the Halifax Oval, where long-track events will be held during week one of the Canada Winter Games. They hope that will give them an edge over some of the other competitors.

Training on Halifax Oval will give them Canada Games home-ice advantage — sort of

Two speed skaters wearing goggles and helmets stand with the ice in the background.
Andrew Binns, left, and Carter Bruce will compete in long-track speed skating at the Canada Winter Games. (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC )

Speed skaters Andrew Binns and Carter Bruce will have home ice advantage, in a way, during the long-track competition at the Canada Winter Games this month.

The two P.E.I. skaters have been travelling back and forth from the Island to the Halifax Oval, where the long-track events will be held during Week 1 of the Games. 

Binns, 20, previously competed in short-track speed skating at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta. 

"This year, I'm actually too old for short track. But I also thought that long track would be a great new opportunity to learn lots of new things, and give myself a bit of a test," Binns said. 

"It's a lot bigger track, 400 metres compared to 111. The technique is a lot different, and you go a lot faster in long track, believe it or not."

Two skaters on the open track at the outdoor Halifax Oval.
Short-track ovals are smaller, measuring just over 111 metres in length, while long-track ovals like the Halifax Oval are 400 metres. (Submitted by Carter Bruce)

In the case of the Halifax Oval, the competition will also be outdoors.

"The ice can sometimes be very brittle, and it's hard to grip it as well, but for us that's where we're training right now," Binns said.

"So we might get a little bit of an advantage over the competitors who are training inside at the moment. It could be a home-ice advantage for sure."

Travel to train

Binns said it has added some challenge to their preparations, having to commute to long-track facilities in other provinces. 

He and Bruce, who's also 20 and studying at UPEI, have received some additional provincial funding to help them with their travel.

I think they will have an advantage just in being comfortable, and knowing how to race fast on this ice​​​​​.— Carolyn Jarock

"I probably went to Quebec three or four times in the fall, driving over there because they have an indoor oval just built," Binns said. 

"It's a lot harder going back and forth but it's worth it, for sure."

Two speed skaters go around a curve on an indoor ice surface.
Binns competed in short-track speed skating in 2019 at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta. (Kelly Tarala/Flickr )

Binns said while the Island skaters are grateful to have the Halifax Oval relatively close by, they would have been even happier to have an oval built on P.E.I. for these Games.

"That would have been great to see — a lot of Speed Skate P.E.I. was pushing for that as it's a growing sport, and it would attract lots of new people," Binns said. 

"It would also pose lots of opportunities for the Island to be able to use the oval in future years, just like Halifax has done."

A speed skater in a Team PEI uniform stands next to an ice surface.
Binns travelled to an indoor oval in Quebec in the fall, as well as to the Halifax Oval, as part of his preparations for the Canada Games. (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC )

Fast ice

Bruce, 20, is competing in long track for the second time. He too was on Team P.E.I. at the 2019 Games in Alberta. 

"It was super nice to be in Red Deer because the ice was so fast compared to where we were usually training, in Halifax," Bruce said.

"Ice is always faster at higher elevation, so some of the fastest times in the world have been skated in Calgary and Salt Lake City. I don't know exactly why it's faster, but it's faster."

A speed skater on an outdoor oval
Bruce, 20, is competing in long track for the second time. He was on Team P.E.I. in 2019 at the Games in Red Deer. (Peter Fuzessery/Canada Winter Games )

"It was an outdoor facility and it was probably–20 most days. It was not very warm."

The long-track speed skaters will head by bus to a satellite village in Halifax, across from the oval, after the opening ceremonies in Charlottetown. 

Bruce said he will miss not being in the athletes' village.

"It'll definitely be different from last Games. I won't get that experience," Bruce said.

"But hopefully I'll be able to watch some of the events because they're being telecast — watch them online."

An athlete in a speed skating suit stands next to the ice.
Bruce's younger siblings are competing in short track at the Games this year, so his family will be dividing their time between North Rustico and Halifax. (Aaron Adetuyi/CBC )

Like his teammate, Bruce would have liked to see a long-track oval built on Prince Edward Island. 

But he's happy to see the new Olympic-size rink in North Rustico, which will host the short-track events, and give the skaters a better place to train for years to come. 

"It's huge for our sport because before, we were training on NHL-size ice, which is so much harder to go fast because you'll just hit the boards if you go any faster than, like, 80 per cent, if you're at our level," Bruce said.

Short track speed skaters on the ice in a large arena.
Short-track speed skating events will be held at the new Eliyahu Wellness Centre Canada Games Place. (Nancy Russell/CBC )

"This gives us the opportunity to actually be able to train at high speeds, and hopefully make us more competitive with other provinces."

Carolyn Jarock is the long-track coach for Team P.E.I., based in Halifax.

Despite the challenges of the travel and weather, Jarock said she hopes the P.E.I. athletes will make the most of their time competing in the Games.

"They're going to understand what the wind is like on our oval better than groups from other provinces," Jarock said.

Two speed skaters at the start of a race on the Halifax Oval in winter.
Coach Carolyn Jarock says the P.E.I. skaters will understand the wind conditions at the Halifax Oval better than competitors from other provinces and will know landmarks around the track. (Submitted by Andrew Binns )

"They're going to have those landmarks in their head: 'When you pass the flag here, I know the wind usually hits me.' Or 'I can see that corner in my head so clearly.'

"I think they will have an advantage just in being comfortable, and knowing how to race fast on this ice."


Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog.


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