The local speed skating club is sounding the alarm about a possible takeover of the local ice rink by the Maple Leafs
A community speed skating club in Toronto fears its home rink is on the verge of being taken over by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ken George, the president of the Toronto Speed Skating Club, said the club had been warned by the Ford Performance Center about plans to convert the Olympic-size ice rink they currently use to the size of an NHL hockey rink to accommodate the Leafs accommodate.
He says he’s been told those potential plans have stalled due to global supply chain issues during the COVID-19 pandemic, but worries work could start as early as this summer.
“Ultimately, Olympic ice is essential for us, both from a competitive, safety and training perspective, to keep our athletes going nationally,” George said.
“We just need a home.”
The Ford Performance Center is the official practice facility for the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and is equipped with thousands of square feet of dedicated and private space for them, including locker rooms, doctor’s, physical therapy and training rooms for the team, according to the center’s website. The Leafs, George says, are already using three of the venue’s four ice pads for practice.
While the ice hockey team could benefit from the rink renovation, it would come at the expense of grassroots sport, the club says. About 200 people strong, George says, they’ve been training at the center for about 15 years because it’s one of the few rinks suitable for high-level speed skating.
“That’s why we’re here at this facility and why we chose a facility like this,” George said.
The center is owned and operated by Lakeshore Arena Corporation, a corporation controlled by the City of Toronto. In a statement to CBC Toronto, company chief executive Graham Cocking said there are currently “no board-approved plans” to reconfigure the rink’s playing surface.
“LAC’s Board of Directors is responsible for the prudent management of the arena and will continue to review opportunities as they arise to make the best use of the facility for the benefit of our users and the wider community,” wrote Cocking.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment did not respond to CBC Toronto’s request for comment.
A new rink would be detrimental to skater training and safety
Sophia Fontenelle, a 15-year-old skater at the club, says a smaller rink not only puts her at a competitive disadvantage, it also changes the way she trains.
“We have to avoid the dangers when we compete on a smaller rink,” she said.
Valerie Cavar, a former member of Canada’s national speed skating team, says it raises a number of safety concerns, such as: B. An increased risk of concussion when young skaters are forced to practice on smaller surfaces.
“Once they get to a provincial level, we need those facilities so they can train at the level and speed that they’re going to get,” Cavar said.
The Leafs could benefit from the renovation because tearing down the only Olympic-size rink would avoid players having to go through the foyer to get onto new ice once they’ve worn down a rink, Cavar says. But that shouldn’t be at the expense of other mass sports, she says.
“We would not put athletes on the podium at the Olympics without supporting, funding and providing the necessary facilities to those sports.”