Hockey

Women’s hockey team faces off against cold temperatures at SMU rink

On and off the ice, some people find Alumni Arena too cold

A SMU hockey player takes a shot on net during the women's team practice at Alumni Arena.
A SMU hockey player takes a shot on net during the women’s team practice at Alumni Arena.   Rebecca Brown

Sitting in the stands on game day at Alumni Arena is like being in the Arctic, said Dorothy Dorrington, a fan of women’s hockey in Halifax.

The Saint Mary’s University rink is home to the SMU women’s varsity hockey club. Dorrington only goes to the arena to watch her grandniece from St. Thomas University play against the Huskies.

80-year-old Dorrington said she’s not the only person who can’t stand the temperature in the rink.

“Most of the people there – young and old – have sleeping bags with them to put over their legs to keep warm,” said Dorrington. “It’s terrible!”

Dorrington said she watches the entire game when her grandniece plays against Dalhousie’s team at the Halifax Forum, but it’s a different story when the game is held at Alumni Arena.

She said she used to stay for the whole game, but in the last couple years she has started coming at the beginning of the third period because it’s so cold.

“You sit there for three periods and you go outside to get warm in between the periods,” she said.

Dorrington said she’s complained several times to the scorekeepers at the rink.

“They just hunched their shoulders,” she said.

Bench warmers

Hockey head coach Chris Larade has coached the women’s team for five years. He said people should expect the arena to be cold.

“It’s a hockey rink. I don’t know what people expect,” said Larade, who believes hockey fans wouldn’t miss the game because of the cold.

He said spectators bring blankets to arenas everywhere.

“I think it’s common practice for many. You’ll see a lot of blankets and stuff mostly just to sit on,” said Larade. “More just for comfort. If it keeps them warm, then so be it.”

People in the stands aren’t the only ones feeling chilly.

Kelty Apperson, a fourth-year forward with the St. Thomas Tommies and Dorrington’s grandniece, said it’s cold even for the players on the ice.

“It’s never even fun playing at SMU, even though they’re good competition,” she said.

This comes as good news to Larade. He said he’ll take any advantage over an opponent.

“I would say that’s fantastic,” he said. “If they’re uncomfortable in here that’s great. Honest to God, we’ll take any advantage we can and that’s a coach’s perspective.”

Larade added that anyone who is cold on the ice isn’t working hard enough.

“I don’t think anybody getting regular playing time is cold in here,” he said. “And I would say that any player that says they’re cold has their butt stapled to the bench or is not doing their job when they’re out on the ice.”

Players from Larade’s own team agree that Alumni Arena is cold, but say they’re fine with it.

“I don’t mind. The fans might, but I like it better cold than too hot in there,” said Moira MacDonald, a second-year forward from Cole Harbour. “The ice is nice and crisp and you can skate, I find, faster on that.”

Getting out of the cold

Apperson would love to see conditions improve for spectators, especially her grandaunt.

“I know it does get to her when she’s not able to come to those games,” said Apperson. “Especially when it’s January and February, she has a tough time going.”

She said installing heaters above the stands would make all the difference.

“If there were heaters, I think that she would definitely be there in the front row cheering me on,” she said.