Sunday, April 21, 2024

Small Town Hockey is Hurting


Anyone who has grown up in a small Canadian town knows how integral hockey is to that small town experience. From a young age my son, and thus my family, has been immersed in small town hockey. Our weekends and evenings consist of travelling to and from rinks for practices, games and tournaments and we wouldn’t change it for anything.

Through the ups and downs of small town hockey, life skills are acquired and lifelong friendships are formed. My family loves travelling up and down Highway 6 and Highway 10 to visit other small towns, however: over the past few years, as we have done so, it has become apparent that youth and adolescents who play hockey in Grey County are often playing in sub-par conditions.

Two of our local arenas (Desboro and Chatsworth) have closed and other other local arenas, Markdale, being one, close on its heels. With less arenas for our children to both practice and play in, getting sufficient ice time becomes a challenge. This is further compounded by the fact that ice is being put into our local arenas almost a month later than average. This makes our teams less competitive, and often results in our teams not being as prepared for our first few games, as we are just getting to know teammates and coaches while we settle into the start of a new season. Despite these challenges we show up to represent our community. Proud of who we are. Proud of where we are from, playing and cheering our hearts out.

Our current local rinks are OK for free skates and general use; however, for more advanced leagues, practices, games and competitions we are forced to travel outside of our community due to safety concerns for players, refs and linesman at our local arenas. In addition,to our one arena having accessibility issues. Therefore those who play in the Under 15 leagues and older players have added expenses of renting arenas and travelling out of town to partake in hockey.

In addition, significantly more time is spent travelling to and from arenas outside of our community. Our local kids who want that small town Canadian experience are finding it more and more challenging to do so locally and often have to find it outside of their own small town! With these challenges in mind, improving our current arena, or even building a new, accessible centre, would go a long way to build confidence and skills in our players and foster stronger community unity.

Are we willing to give up a key part of small town Canadian culture? Are we willing to make the small town hockey experience a thing of the past?

The cliche is “if you build it they will come” but, with all sincerity, we are already here – ready to play…we just need the proper arenas in which to do so.

In any small Canadian community the local arena is always the community hub. A place to gather, figure skate, play broom-ball, play hockey, hold community events.

Let’s invest in our community and in our children. If you grew up playing hockey, and reflect on what it brought to your life now, imagine your childhood without small town hockey. Give our community a chance and you will see our true Canadian spirit. I beg for your attention so we can bring hockey back to this small town. The possibilities are endless! Let’s start the discussion.

Please share this letter! Please share your fundraising ideas! Please consider making a donation! Please contact with ideas, questions or further information! Please call or email your local MP! We have to bring attention to this for our community and the families in it!

Signed, A hockey loving parent with TCDMHA in a small town,

Bren Dykxhoorn, Chatsworth

Editor’s note: The challenges for small communities are significant, and arenas are a prime example of some of the challenges faced. Here in Meaford, the most recent estimate for the funding required to give our own arena a long-overdue rehabilitation, including changes required to meet provincial accessibility legislation, was more than $12 million, and that estimate was two years ago, it will no doubt have increased since then.


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