Nova Scotia community unites to create free outdoor skating rink during COVID-19

An outdoor rink is seen in Canning, N.S., on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. Graeme Benjamin/Global News

As the saying goes, the foundation of hockey isn’t really hockey; it’s shinny.

And the kids in the community of Canning, N.S., have plenty of opportunities to hone those hockey foundations at a brand new outdoor rink in the centre of the town.

“It’s pretty fun to just come down here and play around for a little bit,” said one young skater, who was out enjoying the rink on a mild Friday afternoon.

“I wanted just to come out, play some games with my friends,” another said.

The entire project was made possible by Kris Kirkpatrick and Luke Clarke, two local residents who wanted to find a way to give children of the area a safe, outdoor activity as COVID-19 restrictions extend into February.

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“When we were kids, we were always out in the ponds. We’d go after school and we said, ‘Jeesh, it’d be nice to get an outdoor rink going,'” Kirkpatrick said.

Kirkpatrick and Clarke have spent countless hours late into the night and early in the morning making the rink a reality. But they say seeing the number of children enjoying themselves has made it all worth it.

“I’ve been here pretty much every day scraping the ice off, but it’s nice to see the kids enjoy it,” Clarke said.

“My son’s in minor hockey up here and not being able to watch them, not being able to go public skating — this helps alleviate some of that,” Kirkpatrick said.

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The rink has now become a community gathering spot of sorts. It’s something the community has been missing, according to Jim Taylor, who has lived in the area for decades.

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“These young fellas were extremely persistent and hardworking,” Taylor said. “They’ve done a commendable job, I must say.”

“It’s just a real treat to see some of the young people out here getting some fresh air in an otherwise COVID-plagued season.”

And according to locals, that “community-plagued season” is having a real impact on the kids. They hope the rink will help take their mind off things and let the kids do exactly what they should be doing: be kids.

“It’s hard to explain to them why we can’t do some of these things that the government’s requesting,” Kirkpatrick said.

“So this is an outlet for them. We can all come down here, relax, we can still be social, still practising social distancing, but we can have fun doing it, too.”

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