By Darryl G. Smart
All Langton Minor Hockey Association president Kendell Zajac is looking for, is a conversation.
The only thing Langton Royals general manager and head coach Jason DoPaco is looking for is an answer to when he has home ice.
Every parent involved in Simcoe Minor Hockey Association is wondering if they will have to drive to a different town all season long because currently there is no ice in Norfolk County’s largest centre.
“I’ve completely lost hope in our council and the higher ups in this county,” Zajac said. “In February they promised us a town hall meeting, All we want is to have conversations with them about how we can make it all work. Everyone in the community has met. We have ideas, but that open house in February is the only time they’ve given us the time of day.”
Almost seven months later, the fate of their arena could be in the hands of council on Tuesday night.
While Norfolk CAO Jason Burgess will deliver an update on the present state of arenas, Coun. Kim Huffman is hoping to buy more time for local arenas with her motion to tweak the current Arena Request for Operators Process.
If her motion is defeated, council could be forced to choose another arena for closure.
Marty Kowlasky is one of those concerned in Simcoe. He began an online petition to raise awareness of the dire situation.
“We also ask that council and staff initiate some meaningful discussions with the community before finalizing plans to re-purpose the Rec Centre ice pad,” Kowalsky said in his petition. “All options may not have been discussed and this council claimed to want to be more transparent and willing to work with the community. Let’s not begin to tear apart our community without seeking out and considering all options.”
Back in Langton, all Zajac, the rest of minor hockey, as well as volunteers and parents from the Langton Skating Club wanted, was to focus on is the 50th anniversary of the two organizations in the Langton Arena.
“We were all looking forward to it,” Zajac said. “It’s a big deal in our community and we want to show that off to everyone. We have a lot of question marks still. Hopefully those questions could get answered one day.”
During the August 17 council meeting, where ice user groups were shut out by council in their attempt to bring ice back to the Simcoe Recreation Centre, there were two very different looks at usage numbers.
Norfolk Minor Hockey’s Gord Malo and Marty Jefferson presented a statistical ice analysis, that Smart Sports Podcast earlier reported on.
Those numbers didn’t seem to add up to those that Burgess brought to the table during his presentation. Numbers that nobody in the audience, or council knew about prior to the presentation. During his presentation, Burgess compared Norfolk County to large centres like Pickering, St. Catharines, Halton Hills and Burlington.
To many, these numbers add up to one thing.
“I think this is the groundwork for user hours to close an arena,” Zajac said. “Everyone feels that here. All of us would like to talk to our council members because we have ideas.”
Despite the uncertainty, Burgess concluded in his letter, “We will evaluate the opening up of additional arenas later this month once the user groups are more solid on the number of participants and the type of programming the user groups will be doing so.”
All user groups want is ice time now. And with only three arenas running ice in Norfolk, a bottleneck effect will take place.
“We are looking at ice slots from 4pm to 11pm,” Zajac said. “That’s six hours of ice. Take two away for cleaning. How on earth is this going to work with three arenas? The just doesn’t make sense. Each team gets two hours. How is that even possible? It’s unrealistic.
“They’re asking us to send in time so they can fit us in Delhi, Dover or Waterford. That’s impossible,” Zajac added. “If people find out they have to go to Waterford, will parents drive their kids that far? All of the groups have asked more time. The (Norfolk) HERicanes have asked for extra time every year. This has been an ongoing issue.”