Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by John Tonin

NO ICE UNTIL AUGUST – Concerned Yukon residents are questioning the lack of summer ice avaible for training and to the public. One option proposed was opening Takhini arena while the Canada Games Centre is under maintainence.

Residents concerned about lack of summer ice

Several Yukon hockey parents, coaches, and players have expressed their concerns about the lack of summer ice.

By John Tonin on July 8, 2020

Several Yukon hockey parents, coaches, and players have expressed their concerns about the lack of summer ice. The Canada Games Centre (CGC) closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic on March 18 – Takhini Arena closed with the cancellation of the 2020 Arctic Winter Games.

The CGC partially reopened June 15, but without ice. Maintenance was scheduled to begin in May on the ice plant’s water tower and chiller, but that was delayed and work began on June 11.

The work to the facility is still underway and ice may be open come Aug. 1.

It has been nearly four months since ice has been in any of the facilities, and the hockey community understood the need to shutter everything because COVID-19 caused so many unknowns.

When things became clearer, however, they were left wondering what ideas were had to get athletes back on the rink.

Speaking on the issue is the Yukon’s biggest hockey star, Dylan Cozens, who said he hasn’t been able to skate for three months.

“They could have opened Takhini,” said Cozens. “Now we are hearing all of July too, so another month.”

Dylan’s dad, Mike, questioned the city’s creativity during the pandemic when other jurisdictions are finding ways to reopen their arenas.

“The people he (Dylan) is up against are on the ice training,” said Mike. “It’s one thing if no one is on the ice but other places are finding ways to open arenas and get their kids on the ice.

“It puts our kids at a disadvantage. Several Yukon kids will be going out and competing. The kids they are competing against are on the ice already. So guess what we are doing? We are taking our kids out in July to B.C.”

Mike said the community has already lost so much due to the pandemic, and that giving people an outlet is needed.

“Our Yukon kids have lost so much this year, and I’m talking all youth in all sports and disciplines,” Mike said. “This would have been a really good time to be creative and say we can find a way to do this. It’s COVID; everyone is trying to figure out what’s going on fine, but you can open Takhini.

“There are a lot of things that could have been done. What is your vision for the kids? You can make it happen. If you want to call yourself a hockey city, then be a hockey city, and do the things you need to do to make yourself a hockey city.”

City spokesperson Jessica Appolini said with the COVID situation, the city couldn’t open things without plans. Because of this, the city’s focus was on reopening the CGC doors.

“With the limited staff and arena staff that we have in the summer, everyone’s focus was on the CGC,” said Appolini. “It was supported by the mayor and council to put the focus on community recreation and have all the staff working on opening the CGC.”

When asked about the possibility of opening Takhini while repairs were made at CGC, Apollini said it would have been a tricky situation.

“It would have been difficult because we would have had to bring in extra staff and then with COVID and not knowing YG’s guidelines and not being able to forecast ahead of time, it would have been an odd position for the city to be in,” said Appolini.

During the summer, arena staff move to parks, explained Appolini. The staff that have remained on have been at the CGC training with Cimco Refridgeration – the company doing the ice plan repairs.

Even during non-pandemic times, Mike said, the issue of summer ice has persisted in the city.

“I’ve been involved in hockey a long time up here,” he said. “It’s generally been an ongoing issue trying to get ice. We’ve had a lot of our kids in junior or university who are unable to stay here in the summer.

“They are gone for the season, then their families see them briefly then they got to go to be ready. We’ve had lots of kids who have to leave their home communities.”

Apollini said the city currently doesn’t keep ice all summer due to insufficient demand.

Dylan said if the trend continues, he won’t be able to stay in Whitehorse for the summer, even though he would like too. He would like to see this change so Whitehorse can become a hockey city.

“The city likes to talk about me, you know; they changed their Twitter name to City of Cozens, after world juniors, but there is a big difference between saying stuff and doing it,” Dylan said.

“There are tons of other kids training for the next level. We want to call ourselves a hockey city, we want to be a place that produces young hockey players but it’s not going to happen until we have ice year-round.

“There will be kids that do make it but they are going to be making it because they go down south. But if there was more ice here, they’d (the city) be able to take more credit for it.”

Dylan continued to say that staying in Whitehorse over the summer puts him at a disadvantage.

“Every kid that is in Whitehorse for the summer is at a disadvantage when the season starts,” said Dylan.” It’s not just about me; it’s about the youth who are leaving. When you are at that age, every week on the ice is so important for improving.

“I want to be here as much as I can but I’m not going to be able to in the future because it puts me at a disadvantage being in Whitehorse.

There is stuff I can do; I want to help kids, I could do camps, but I can’t be here if I can’t skate.”

The territory’s hockey players have already had their season cut short and lost the opportunity to represent the Yukon at the Arctic Winter Games. Also, the camps hosted by the Whitehorse Minor Hockey Association (WHMA) have been cancelled or postponed until August.

His mom, Sue Bogle, said parents already have to sacrifice a lot for their kids to play competitive hockey.

“Dylan had to leave at a young age to access high-level competition and we understood that’s just the way it was,” said Bogle. “We are lucky to get him back a little earlier than usual. But now he would stay and a lot of kids would stay if the rinks were open in the summer.

“It’s hard when you’ve already had to sacrifice for kids to go out. We lose a lot of our kids during the year and we don’t want to lose them in the summer.”

Lynn Palfreyman’s son Owen played his 2019/20 season for the Cariboo Cougars.

She too has been left wondering what the city could have done to get ice in sooner.

“I get that with COVID it has been difficult,” said Palfreyman. “I’ve tried contacting the city, but no answer, and I’d like to know the reasoning behind not opening Takhini.

“It’s tough because camps are opening and a lot of our athletes are going out.”

Palfreyman said they understood what they were signing up for when Owen began pursuing higher competition, but she would like to have him home in the summer.

“He should be home and we should have the facilities,” said Palfreyman. “There are athletes trying to prepare for the world outside the Yukon, and this leaves them at a huge disadvantage. It isn’t great support for the Yukon athletes.”

Comments (7)

Up 2 Down 0

Gary Seed on Jul 22, 2020 at 3:07 pm

Very valid comments, and they speak for a larger group. There are Whitehorse kids competing for teams in BC and Alta, and some won't get this chance again. Why wouldn't they be supported if at all possible?

People who aren't keen on hockey shouldn't trivialize these concerns. It required some creative planning but creative planning is being done everywhere, it was possible in Whitehorse.

Up 12 Down 12

Why can't the City give a reason? on Jul 11, 2020 at 9:02 am

Costs are the same for putting the ice in, whether it's July 1 or August 1. The incremental expense is one month of staff for zamboni, general duties...With so many other City camps/sports canceled, surely there are 2-3 staff that could be reassigned for 1 month? Hundreds of kids (maybe > 1000?) are hockey players in Whitehorse and with so many other sports canceled, the rink would be well-used. As for 'entitlement', 'cry babies' accusations - backatcha. Dylan and his dad are simply speaking for a large group of players/parents/coaches

Up 26 Down 11

Anie on Jul 10, 2020 at 2:08 pm

With so much to worry about, are we really supposed to give much notice to the opinions of one hockey dad?

Up 20 Down 28

joe on Jul 9, 2020 at 12:36 pm

I totally agree with Mike. I kinda think he knows what he's talking about. in addition, there are no cases in Yukon!! Enough already, open the ice or start laying off stay at home paid staff.

Up 39 Down 10

Yukoner on Jul 9, 2020 at 8:41 am

Really first world problems... while maybe it would be great to have the rinks open, they sit empty a huge portion of the summer when they are in and are hugely expensive.

Up 44 Down 16

Robin on Jul 9, 2020 at 1:52 am

Holy entitlement Batman!

Up 45 Down 18

TMYK on Jul 8, 2020 at 3:42 pm

So hockey is more important than pretty much every other sport? All sports are taking a big hit. What a bunch of cry babies.

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