Community

Rink dreams: Halifax man wants hockey rink inside Oval

Ryan O’Quinn says proposal would cost about $2 million

Ryan O’Quinn at the Oval on Saturday. He wants to play hockey in the empty middle space.   Cam Honey

Ryan O’Quinn wants to save outdoor hockey in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

O’Quinn is the leader of a pitch to build an NHL-size hockey rink in the middle of the Emera Oval.

“Hockey needs to be grass roots,” said O’Quinn, who grew up playing on frozen ponds and lakes in southern Manitoba before moving to Halifax.

“All you (used) to need was a stick, skates, gloves and a frozen piece of ice.”

O’Quinn started thinking about outdoor rinks in 2015, when he met two Cole Harbour teens who drove to a frozen basketball court in Halifax’s west end because it was the only place with free ice.

Then last year, he was playing hockey after hours at the Oval when he realized the solution was right where he was skating.

“It’s a magical feeling,” he said of playing hockey on the Oval. “You’re out there passing the puck with kids, older people, different genders, different backgrounds, different skill levels and everyone is just playing the game of hockey.”

O’Quinn began researching his project last summer. He measured the space in the middle of the Oval and contacted the company that built the Oval pad to develop a cost estimate.

Local planning group Planifax and Haligonia.ca have teamed up with O’Quinn on the project. O’Quinn estimates the price of the rink would be $2 million, which he hopes to raise through private investment.

Despite the rink’s winter association, it would be available for non-winter sports like lacrosse, ball hockey and roller derby.

“In my mind, it’s a perfect project that works for all four seasons in Canada,” O’Quinn said.

He plans to follow the blueprint used in Roseville, Minn., where they have a hockey rink in the centre of their Oval.

“It’s a marquis spot in their city,” said O’Quinn. “Kids love it, the community loves it and they do tons of events in there.”

The initial rendering of what the Oval rink might look like.   Dean Gallant/Pinwheel Communications Design

Coun. Shawn Cleary thinks a rink in the Oval is “a cool idea that deserves exploration.” The Halifax West Armdale councillor and his daughter use the Oval regularly.

Cleary said the idea of a rink has not been discussed at council and would not be considered for this year. However, he added, if “lots” of people in the community are supportive, council would consider it.

Ameer Musa (middle), with family friends from Ghana: Stephen Batsa (left) and Jo Nkrumah (right).   Cam Honey

Community feedback

Nine-year-old Ameer Musa is supportive of the idea. His parents are from Ghana and he hasn’t had a chance to play hockey yet.

“It would be fun and I’d probably like it,” said Musa, who was at the Oval on Saturday with family and friends.

For Jerry Berthiaume, one of the coaches of the Pictou County Crushers, there’s never enough ice for hockey. The team drove to Halifax on Saturday to skate at the Oval.

“If they can use that space in the middle and open it up to some more people, I think it’d be great,” said Berthiaume.

The Pictou County Crushers advanced novice team at the Oval on Saturday. They were ‘having a blast’ zipping around the ice.   Cam Honey

On Sunday night, Adam Bailey and his friends drove in from Tantallon for some after-hours shinny at the Oval. The Oval is the only place they can go for free ice time.

“I think it’d be sweet,” Bailey said about having a rink in the middle of the Oval. “It’d bring out a lot of friends, a lot of buddies. It’d be a great time.”

Adam Bailey in his Leafs jersey and his friends from Tantallon at the Oval Sunday night.   Cam Honey

Currently, the HRM is creating a master plan for the Halifax Common based on community input, and O’Quinn wants to capitalize on it.

“If we don’t mobilize public opinion now it’ll be really hard, so we need to get this included in the master plan,” he said.

Cleary said the process to develop a master plan for the Common will take time.

O’Quinn looking out at the space for the potential rink on Saturday.   Cam Honey