Calgary group fundraising for sledge hockey-accessible outdoor rink

Click to play video: 'Calgarians hope to open outdoor rink to sledge hockey players: ‘Absolute game-changer’'
Calgarians hope to open outdoor rink to sledge hockey players: ‘Absolute game-changer’
WATCH: Hitting the ice at your neighbourhood outdoor rink is one of the best parts of winter for many. Now there's a new effort to open up the experience to some Calgarians who've been missing out on the fun. Gil Tucker has the story – Mar 5, 2019

The outdoor ice rink in the community of Parkdale in Calgary is at the end of its life, but instead of just replacing the existing rink, the community association is taking some extra steps to allow more people to enjoy the outdoor space.

The Parkdale Community Association has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to renovate its outdoor rink to be accessible for sledge hockey players.

That would make it Western Canada’s first sledge hockey-accessible outdoor rink, according to PCA volunteer Andy Thiessen. There are a number of sledge hockey rinks around Calgary, but most are indoor facilities.

The small rink project turned into: how do we take it to the next level?” Thiessen said Friday. “What if we made it accessible for sledge hockey?”

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Thiessen said the association partnered with the group Level Playing Field to get the ball rolling on the project.

The new rink, which the groups hope will be open by the winter of 2020, will have proper ramps, clear boards and good sight lines so it’s not only accessible-player-friendly but accessible-viewer-friendly too.

“Because it’s outdoor, we’d like to be able to host outdoor events,” Thiessen said. “We’ve reached out to the Calgary sledge hockey group and they’re excited about hosting a heritage classic or outdoor winter event under lights.”

Thiessen is new to the community of Parkdale, only having moved there in August. But when the young family moved in, he said his six-year-old son was disappointed to learn the rink wasn’t useable and wouldn’t be because the association is running a deficit.

“I got involved in the rink to provide the access to my son, and with my son having access — it has to be accessible for everybody,” Thiessen said.

He added he’s hoping the rink will become a space everyone in the community and in Calgary can use and enjoy.

“As a community-involved rink, this is something that can be really tremendous for us and we can have sledge hockey players fully integrating with other Timbits or adults,” he said.

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“It’s exciting, it’s groundbreaking. It’s equal opportunity across the board.”

The current ice surface is NHL-sized, meaning the new one would be too. Thiessen said they’ve reached out to the Calgary Flames and Calgary Hitmen who have expressed interest in holding a practice on the new rink once it’s complete.

Thiessen said Winnipeg has an outdoor sledge hockey-accessible rink that has gained a lot of notoriety as players travel from Calgary and Edmonton to play because it’s the only one available.

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