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District's new ice time off-side, says Squamish senior men's team

Hilltop Hockey players say their ice time at 10:45 p.m. on Sunday is the worst of the week; District says the team can also use the weekday drop-in slot and that the demand for ice time exceeds what is available.

The time on the ice at Brennan Park Recreation Centre arena is about more than hockey for the 40 players involved with Hilltop Hockey.

It is camaraderie, exercise and letting off steam.

And, of course, a good game of hockey for its members who are between 55 years old and in their mid-70s. 

As a result, several players are dropping their gloves over a sudden change in ice time — the District has given them 10:45 p.m. on Sunday night. This is the worst time slot in the week, the men say. 

While several of the players spoke to The Squamish Chief for this story, they pointed to Robin Dickson as their spokesperson. 

Dickson has played hockey in Squamish as long as he has lived here — 30 years. 

He started in the Squamish Old-Timers league for 35-year-olds and up and moved on to the Hilltop team 10 years ago. 

Before recently being notified that its time was bumped, the team played mid-evening on Sundays.

They were previously part of a Sunday night rotation with Squamish Women's Hockey, Old-Timers and Hilltop hockey, which started at 7:30 p.m. through the late time of 10:15 p.m.

This has been the case for 15 years. 

District staff have now eliminated one adult hockey time slot on Sunday evenings while pushing back the remaining two adult slots. The Old-Timers slot was eliminated and it was decided to provide the earlier time (9:30 p.m.) to the women’s team and the later time to Hilltop. 

Thus, there will be no more rotation to share time slots. It is the late time or nothing, the men say.

District response

Francis Lepage, general manager of community services at the District, told The Squamish Chief that all adult user groups have seen a change in their schedule. 

“Men’s and women’s user groups across the board have seen a schedule change to later timeslots this year due to the increase in enrolment for youth hockey and figure skating,” he said in an email. “As in many communities, the demand for ice time exceeds what is available. The District’s Ice Allocation Policy aims to accommodate as many users and user groups as possible while prioritizing local youth sport associations ahead of local adult sport associations.”

Several players said the District's new time for Hilltop hockey of 10:45 p.m. absolutely will not work. 

"This time does not work for the majority of the 40 Hilltop hockey players as the majority are still working day jobs, and as you age, you cannot work with reduced sleep effectively, unlike younger folks," said Dickson in a letter to council that was forwarded to the paper. 

“It is clear that District staff have put their anchors down and have no interest in considering a reasonable ice time for senior men's hockey players. This seems to be a continual District of Squamish failure to listen to seniors and their unique requirements as they age. I am hoping council will review this situation and provide direction to District staff to make an accommodation so senior men’s hockey can continue,” Dickson said in his letter.

These are community members who have given to Squamish, with many of them coaching, managing or refereeing young players with the Squamish Minor Hockey Association over the years, they say, in a letter by player Steve Shard that was signed by about 25 of the guys. 

With hockey set to start up again in the first weeks of September, the players are hoping the situation can be reversed. 

If not, they say it may be the death of their long-standing team because they won't be able to get the numbers needed to play so late. 

They say that there must be other options for minor hockey. 

Asked about the perceived slight at local seniors,  Lepage said that the District makes every effort to deliver a wide range of programming and activities for local seniors of all activity levels. “As is evidenced by the extensive programming delivered across three different recreation facilities,” he said, pointing to the District’s fall program lineup for adults and seniors that was just announced.

“When faced with limited physical space, however, it isn’t possible to provide every user group with their preferred times. To help compensate for this, there is an additional 8.5 hours of drop-in hockey time scheduled during weekdays which some Hilltop Hockey (and Oldtimers Hockey) members have been able to take advantage of in previous seasons,” he said. 

“We have experienced a significant increase in demand for youth ice sports this year and so have had to make adjustments to the adult schedules. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and sacrifices, and we hope that the adult groups can continue to take advantage of the drop-in schedule as well,” Lepage said. 

For their part, the Hilltop players say Wednesday doesn’t work for the players who still have jobs.
“A second sheet of ice is something that we are working towards, amongst many other priorities within the District’s Real Estate and Facilities Master Plan. There are trade-offs to consider in order to fund all the facility upgrades that are needed. We have developed this Facilities Master Plan infographic to help provide information to the community as to how we are working towards achieving all our facility needs,” said Lepage.





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