Ponoka hockey teams are puzzled about just when they’ll be able to get their seasons started as the Ponoka Arena Complex remains closed for repairs a week before regular practices and tryouts are set to begin on Saturday, Sept. 16.
“Everybody is kind of scrambling,” said Erin Williamson, media relations for Ponoka Minor Hockey Association (PMHA).
“The town isn’t communicating with us.”
With no clear idea of when they might expect the ice to be ready, the PMHA and other organizations that use the ice, are looking for alternative accommodations.
The PMHA ice scheduler was able to secure some ice from the arena in Rimbey for all PMHA teams, but that will mean extra driving for Ponoka and area players.
The Stampeder’s Junior B minor/recreational conditioning camp that it puts on for novice to midget-level players was supposed to be held from Sept. 10 to 14 but is now potentially being held from Sept. 23 to 26.
The atoms, pee wees, bantams and midgets should start practice by Sept. 16 but can’t because of lack of ice.
The Stampeders Junior B hockey team was set to start its 2019 main camp on Sept. 10 at the Ponoka Arena Complex, but have now moved to Red Deer College and started Sept. 7 instead.
According to Linda Blacklock, the secretary for the Junior B Stampeders, people were asking about the camp’s date changes at registration night Aug. 28 as nobody she’d spoken to knew there was a problem with the ice plant.
“We hope we can cover our costs but going out of town will really cut into our program,” said Blacklock.
Some of the older players dropped out of the camp after the date change, as their tryouts will already be over. The camp is usually a pre-conditioner to get them in shape for that.
“If they’re much longer [getting the ice ready] I don’t know what kind of impact that will have.”
The Stampeders Junior B hockey team will be holding a cash raffle to help offset costs and will be selling $10 tickets at games until the draw on Dec. 18.
A statement from the Town of Ponoka dated Sept. 6 said, “We are working hard to have the new ice ready by Sept. 22 in time for the Ponoka Junior B Stampeders home opener.”
According to the statement, the town is currently in the process of replacing the two header pipes that carry brine to the small and large ice slabs at the arena.
“We discovered an unexpected leak in the pipes as we were preparing to begin making new ice for the season in late August.”
The town is working with a contractor who has removed the old pipes and will begin installing new pipes the week of Sept. 9.
Once the new pipes are installed, the town can then begin the process of recommissioning the system and making new ice. The ice making process takes approximately one week.
The town is hoping to have ice ready by Sept. 22, but says it’s a possibility that the completion of the repairs and making new ice could take longer.
“We are hoping that’s not the case.”
The town states it has been “in regular contact with our designated user group representatives who book ice for each of our ice user groups,” such as the Junior Stampeders, Ponoka Minor Hockey, Rec Hockey, Skate Ponoka, etcetera.
“We have informed them of the repairs that are underway and of the possibility that the new ice may take longer than Sept. 22 to be ready.
“In the meantime we have also provided our ice user groups with alternative options for ice rentals in nearby communities (including Rimbey, Lacombe and Red Deer) in the event that the ice is delayed past Sept 22.
“Some of our user groups have been renting ice in nearby communities over the past few weeks for practices and try outs. We will be meeting with all of our user group representatives this week to provide them with another update and to begin planning for the season.”