April 1, 2023

Sask Village’s Video Goes Viral Amid Fundraiser

An old hockey rink in a Saskatchewan village recently made a splash across much of the hockey world.

It’s all because of a viral video showing two hockey players being lowered onto the ice by a drawbridge-style wooden staircase.

It’s the usual way for players to get to the ice from the dressing rooms above the lobby. And it’s been that way since the arena was built in 1928 in Lang, a village about 70 kilometres south of Regina.

All the attention has caught the community of just under 200 by surprise.

“That video getting four or five million views across all those platforms was pretty unbelievable,” said Mike Williams, an arena board member.

“I understand the attention it gets for the nostalgic-ness of our Zamboni and our catwalk, … but this much attention, it’s pretty surreal.”

He said the staircase, which he referred to as a “catwalk,” is lowered using a rope and pulley system. And while the video shows a player stumbling, he said the setup works quite well.

“I mean, I’ve been down those stairs thousands of times,” he said. “Usually we don’t have a problem.”

In fact Williams recently posted his own video to Twitter, to show people how the catwalk is supposed to work and as part of fundraising for repairs and upgrades to the 95-year-old arena.

Other unique touches include the homemade ice resurfacing machine, which includes an old barrel for water, and a mop setup. The rink is flooded using a fire hose.

And then there are the dressing rooms—tiny by modern standards. Williams said they are roughly 8 feet wide and 15 feet long.

“There’s no running water or anything up there. They’re pretty tiny. But you have to remember, when that thing was built, guys weren’t really wearing much for hockey equipment. So they didn’t need much space to get dressed,” he said.

And when players are dressed, they walk out the door and lower the staircase onto the ice.

Community Focal Point, Volunteer Labour

The rink hosted its first event in January 1929, and it’s been going ever since—a focal point for the community.

Volunteers at the ice rink in Lang, Saskatchewan use a home-made machine to resurface the ice. (Courtesy Mike Williams)

Like most rinks, it has a canteen and a small lobby. The rink is operated by volunteers, who handle everything from booking ice time to doing repairs.

Despite its age, Williams said the facility is still well-used.

Teams from nearby communities will rent ice time, just to get some extra practice. And sometimes when the nearby town of Milestone is hosting a hockey tournament, some of the games will be played in Lang.

But it still leaves lots of time for the local residents to use the ice—an aspect that Williams loves.

“It’s fantastic, as far as I’m concerned. We get unlimited ice time. … We can skate all day.”

And while it is natural ice, Williams said the quality is usually quite good.

“We got natural hard ice, which is fun to carve up. We spend thousands and thousands of hours there, me and my buddies. So, it’s been pretty awesome for us over the last 30 years.”

But it all comes at a cost, and that’s where the volunteer labour comes in. A lot of work by a lot of people goes into keeping the old arena going.

For example, when the volunteers were replacing the puck boards, they found more problems.

“And we went to do that, and upon ripping all the old ones off, we realized that the entire west wall was rotted out, so we had to reframe it,” Williams said.

“It just seems like every time we fix something, there’s always something next to be fixed. It seems like every time we knock two things off in summertime, three or more things pop up, so every dollar matters. All the hours are volunteers.”

As a result, he said, the rink has become something of a second home.

“Our wives give us a little heck because we seem to spend more time there sometimes in the summertime than we do at home,” he said.

Given all of that, the timing of the fundraiser couldn’t have been better.

“Here was the perfect time to launch the fundraiser we’ve been after for the last little while. Because we got a lot of upgrades that need to be done, because, well, it’s 95 years old,” Williams said.

Their goal is $25,000.

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