Saskatoon

End of an era as Huskies leave historical 'Dog House' rink

A new home for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies hockey team signals the end of an era for fans like Michael P.J. Kennedy.

Rink built in 1929 to be replaced by new $43M facility in Saskatoon

Built in 1929, Rutherford Rink is affectionately known as the Dog House. (Peter Mills/CBC)

A new home for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies hockey team signals the end of an era for fans like Michael P.J. Kennedy.

For more than two decades, the former U of S lecturer brought his own lawn chair to Rutherford Rink to get the best view of the university teams facing off.

Now, after 89 years, the university team is moving to a new rink across the street at Merlis Belsher Place.

"Built in 1929, [Rutherford] showed its age in the last few decades," said Kennedy.

"It very much has that feeling of a small-town Saskatchewan rink."

'State-of-the-art'

The old facility cost $47,000 to build at the time and was considered a state-of-the-art "ice drome."

He said its replacement, Merlis Belsher Place, is worth about $43 million and should address some of Rutherford's problems with uncomfortable seating and obstructed sightlines.

An architectural drawing of Merlis Belsher Place. (University of Saskatchewan)

But Kennedy has made sure the best memories made inside the old rink will not be forgotten.

He is the author of Dogs On Ice: A History of Hockey at the University of Saskatchewan, including a collection of memories from the Rutherford Rink.

He said one of the rink's most memorable moments was in 2016, when the Saskatchewan team beat the University of Alberta in the Canada West playoff.

One of the Huskies players, Cody Smuk, had recently died.

"The players went and got the Smuk family to come onto the ice to help celebrate because Cody was such a big part of building the team that finally did win the championship in 2016," said Kennedy.

Women's hockey not recognized for decades

He also noted the history of women's hockey, which wasn't recognized as a university sport until 1997-98.

"The women didn't really have facilities themselves until around 2000 or so when they got a trailer — a former construction trailer," said Kennedy.

"It was attached to the building and it was made into their dressing room."

With the Huskies set to move into a new home, Kennedy said he'll have to retire his lawn chair.

"Now I'll have to sit in regular seats I guess, and I'm looking forward to that."

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning

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