Outdoor Classic: Coming (perhaps soon) to a neighbourhood near you
Maybe you’re one of many humble garage-league goalies who imagines that netminders who have played any sort of pro hockey end up retiring at age 30 to a life of golf and sipping margaritas by the pool all day. Well, in the case of Patrick Couture this is certainly not the case. After a 12 year professional career that included stops in the ECHL, AHL and Europe, the former Quebec Remparts goalie teamed up with ex-NHL defenseman Yannick Tremblay to create a professional quality outdoor ice rink that recently was host to Quebec City’s very first Midget AAA Winter Classic game.
It took close to two years of planning and untold hours of labour, but judging by the ambiance and the smiles all around this past weekend, the project certainly seems to be proving a success a month after opening. The NHL may have made a splash with their annual Winter Classic, but across the river from Québec City beside the new convention center in Lévis, players in every sort of recreational league and minor hockey association are getting a chance to experience their own outdoor game, just like back in the day when everyone played that way.
As Patrick explained, the city of Lévis was not interested in advancing any support money to a project that had not been proven, and so it was intended from the outset that the rink be entirely financed by private money and kept operational by revenues generated from the rental of the ice surface. Funny thing, though, since it got up and running, a number of administrators from the public domain have expressed interest, since the conventional model of building a roofed building with an ice surface on a concrete pad has long been known as a money loser that must be subsidized with taxpayers’ money to stay alive. In contrast, the ice rink set up by Couture and Tremblay is 100% portable and temporary, and so does not need maintenance or overhead costs for the months of the year that it is not needed. Even the refrigeration system is portable, since it is nothing more than a plastic sheet with 12 000 feet of tubing into which the refrigerant runs. The fact that the ice is built up directly on this surface means much faster set-up times, as well as the capacity to adjust the temperature of the ice to deal with changes in weather conditions. The dressing rooms and showers are heated portable shelters and the benches are housed in plexiglass with built in construction heaters. Even the zamboni has its own shipping crate which serves as a garage. There is proper stadium lighting for night games and regulation plexiglass around the boards just like an indoor arena.
When asked about whether the question of bad weather compromises the usefulness of an outdoor rink, Tremblay replied that sports like soccer, baseball or skiing are played outdoors and subject to weather delays and rescheduling. The day I was there there was a mini-snowstorm (after which the players all helped with the shovels!) followed by a brief period of rain. Throughout the afternoon the ice remained very consistent, no doubt helped by the ambiant temperatures being below freezing. Nevertheless, the system, which uses a technology perfected in Europe, is designed to be operational from October to May.
What impressed me most about my day there, above all, was the owners of the place, former pros who were not just telling people what to do, but were actually on site with shovels in hand, clearing snow, driving the zamboni and doing repairs. Proving that some goalies have more to them then just what we see on the ice. Those interested in the CT Ice Rink rink at Lévis can contact Patrick Couture: [email protected].