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'The game we love': Newmarket hockey official happy as town skates toward NHL-sized outdoor rink
April 25, 2022

Katie Williams is looking forward to the first time Newmarket residents lace up their skates and glide across the surface of a future NHL-size rink at the Ray Twinney Recreation Complex.

Williams is the vice-president of the women’s division and the Panther Pride tournament director with the Central York Girls Hockey Association.

She has also been very involved in past efforts to raise about $400,000 for the project, including a raffle that saw five kids who sold the most tickets skate for an hour with Newmarket native NHL star Connor McDavid.

While the town’s Recreation Playbook 10-year master plan for 2015 to 2025 identified the need for an outdoor ice rink and community space, the issue has been largely dormant lately, especially during the last two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it skated back to centre ice with a public meeting March 24.

There is still much work to do -- figuring out the rink’s exact location at the Twinney complex, although a space near the front entrance adjacent to a parking lot that wouldn’t impact on the nearby soccer fields appears to be the preferred location; determining the budget and funding sources; working out programming and event opportunities; and identifying accompanying amenities such as seating and skate rentals -- and will involve more public consultation.

The town plans to open the new covered rink and community space in 2024.

In winter, the facility would accommodate, for example, hockey games, practices and tournaments, public skating with low-cost or no-cost skate rentals for those who want to give the sport a try without investing a lot of money, learn-to-skate programs and ringette.

In the summer months, the space could be used for ball hockey, lacrosse, community events and private functions.

As she looks forward to the facility’s opening in a couple of years, Williams, who has volunteered with the hockey association for more than 25 years, said the space will provide many opportunities.

That includes everything from tournaments that draw as many as 70 teams to Newmarket, outdoor shinny games, opportunities to showcase girls’ and women’s hockey and draw new players to the game and a potential venue for community involvement, Williams said.

Players are very involved in community initiatives, such as the Junior Panthers, who were the top fundraising team for the “She Shoots She Saves” program, which helps purchase defibrillators at parks and outdoor arenas; collecting hoodies and jackets for homeless youth across York Region in support of 360Kids; purchasing and delivering gifts to residents of Hope House, a shelter for young female victims of human trafficking; buying hockey equipment for Indigenous youth and hosting members of the Aurora Black Community on a park rink, the first time many had been on skates.

“During the closures due to COVID, many families built their own backyard rinks to keep active and keep playing hockey, the game we love,” Williams added.

“The addition of an outdoor rink with good quality ice surface would provide even more opportunity for the association’s 50-plus teams to skate and keep active over the long winter but also, hopefully, to use the surface for dry land training and summer sports.”

The NHL rink and community space is part of the town’s largest investment in parks, recreation and culture in Newmarket’s history over the next six to eight years, including Mulock Park, the skateboard park at the Magna Centre, new trails including those coming in the future Shining Hill community and multi-use sport courts, Mayor John Taylor said.

“Something I’ve learned in my 15 years here at the town is that this is something people value greatly. They value trails, they value parks, they value opportunities to be active, for children to be active and not on screens,” he said.

While the budget is still being determined, Taylor said community fundraising, development charges (municipal fees on newly built homes and commercial/industrial buildings) and corporate sponsorships should result in minimal or no cost for the facility on existing property taxpayers.