The distinctive crunch of metal on ice…

By Sandra L. Brown

January 18, 2017 3:37 PM

GAME ON On the outdoor rink behind Bishop Lloyd School.

Remember the good old days of crowding around a black and white television which stood on spindly legs, cheering for your favourite NHL team on Saturday night? 
Nowadays, the outdoor Heritage Classic brings back some of the thrills of playing hockey on an outdoor rink with the distinctive crunch of metal on ice and skilled players flying past at breakneck speeds. 
Skating their way into history, Lloydminster’s early hockey players learned how to play the game on outdoor open air rinks. 
The ice devoid of painted lines and logos wasn’t the smooth controlled surface it is now, nor did Zambonis exist. 
Teams of horses cleared the accumulating snow, which at times was over two or three feet deep. 
This whole process could take several days depending upon the snowstorm, and then the remaining snow was shoveled up over the boards. 
A true labor of passion for the game, or folly as some might say! 
Fans stood on wooden boards stamping their feet in a futile attempt to stay warm, while remaining upright on snowbanks to see overtop of the rink’s boards.
Tournaments were played as long as ice was in and there wasn’t too much dirt or stubble poking through.  Memories passed down through the years share tales of these early rinks. 
The hockey rink located behind Bingham’s barn was run by two hockey players. 
Many a new skater clung perilously to these boards pulling themselves along the ice. 
Soon they were brave enough to attempt skating to the opposite side and before long a hockey player arose. 
Public school hockey games were played on a rink run by Matt Taylor who also provided skate sharpening in his machine shop. 
A highly anticipated Christmas gift was a $10 family ticket to this rink which opened up in the evenings.  Eager players waited on the doorstep for the key to open its door.
Located behind the Immigration Hall, this rink almost didn’t exist until Archie Miller and the Rendell boys took over. 
Using a team of horses from the Rendell farm, they were given permission to pump water from the town well through three-inch wide pipes until midnight. 
Rumbling along the rutted winter roads, the wagon with its water tank created somewhat of a noise disturbance. 
Water in the 18 foot lengths of pipe often froze and sections had to be painstakingly taken apart, brought through a window and thawed out over a stove.
When one end was thawed out, it was taken back through the window, turned around and the opposite end placed over the stove’s heat. 
Despite this laborious process, as they saw it, hockey was a part of winter recreation and this rink was for the community’s overall well-being. 
When the first covered rink became reality through community financing, the game of hockey improved. 
They didn’t have to worry about the snow nor the cold winter winds.  Bigger teams formed as a result.
Playing hockey under its cover for several years, this rink was unfortunately burnt down by a fire believed to have started in the office. 
The new rink was open less than a year later. 
Leading the way for a new era, more covered rinks followed with their advantage of providing a longer hockey season. 
Gone are the days when players used old copies of the Ladies Home Journal magazine as shin pads, filled flour bags with hay for goalie pads, and burned “nicks” in their sticks after scoring a goal. 
Skates were laced up by the light and heat from barn lanterns. 
Players piled into barely heated Model Ts with buttoned up curtains for their journey on precarious winter roads through snowdrifts.
Defencemen turned their back on the play to have a few seconds out of the bitter wind until the goalie informed them that the puck was coming their way and it was time to face into the wind again. 
The Great Depression years, which saw wheat at less than 20 cents per bushel and choice steers at 4 cents a pound, decreased funds for recreation.
However, in true Lloydminster style, hockey continued. 
The genuine essence of the game remains the same through the years with shared camaraderie shining from within. 
Go, Lloydminster!

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