By Darryl G. Smart
Norfolk’s minor hockey associations on the east side of the county are requesting that council reconsider its decision to close the Simcoe Recreation Centre.
“The Norfolk Minor Hockey Association, along with our partner minor hockey associations, strongly believe that closing the Rec Centre puts our hockey programs in dire straits, and severely threatens the exciting and expanded hockey programming we are bringing to Norfolk County,” a release penned by the new Norfolk Minor Hockey Association, in co-operation with Simcoe, Port Dover, Waterford and Norfolk HERicanes minor hockey associations. “We are more than willing to work with Norfolk County to ensure our arenas are operating in a sustainable and fiscally responsible manner. It is critical that they do so. It is also imperative that the Rec Centre arena stay in operation, particularly in light of the new realities that have emerged
since Norfolk County’s 2020 Budget.”
The minor hockey associations worked together to create an analysis of ice requirements, which includes NMHA, which is in its inaugural season. The anticipated ice requirements for the 2020-2021 season were provided to Norfolk County staff in early May 2020.
The associations require 163 hours of ice per week. Last season Waterford, Simcoe, Port Dover and the HERicanes associations used 124 hours per week.
“To put it in perspective, the creation of NMHA increased our combined ice requirements by almost 40 hours per week. This increase represents about a full business weeks’ worth of ice – every week,” the release signed by NMHA president Martin Jefferson, first vice president Pat Meahan and second vice president Darnell Lambert reads. “Upon review of our ice requirements and arena availability, Norfolk County staff agreed that without the Rec Centre there is not enough ice to satisfy our needs. This is the case even if we found a way to use every single hour of ice available, outside of school hours, at every Norfolk arena. There is simply not enough ice.
“Norfolk County shared a tentative ice schedule for all five Norfolk arenas with our associations, thereby providing us with even further insight into what time slots were being made available to minor hockey,” it reads. “This analysis revealed even more serious scheduling issues. Contrary to the ice times made available to us and which we were told were ‘usable hours’, it is a reality that it is not possible to use every single hour of ice outside of school hours due to the need to respect local bus times.”
This is just the tip of the ice berg, considering minor hockey needs additional ice for tournaments to create revenue, other programming like the First Shift Program, not to mention its loss of traditional ice times at Talbot Gardens on Tuesday and Wednesday nights because of adult leagues being moved from the Rec Centre closure.
Speaking of adult leagues, as a result of the Rec Centre closure, some traditional ice times for adults, including shinny and leagues may fold after, for some, decades of use.
“We accept that there are challenges, but we are also confident that solutions can be found,” the release reads. “However, Norfolk County has to want to find the solutions, and to engage users to do so. In the end, we are partners in our communities and partners in the arena facilities. There is no doubt we can work together, engage, and make this work. This is not a bridge too far. In the meantime, while we endeavor to find a workable and sustainable path forward, we strongly request that you allow the Rec Centre arena to remain in operation, and to serve our children at a time when they need such activity the most.”