A small town just outside of Calgary has banned one of Canada's most beloved winter pastimes.
The Town of Chestermere, home to the World's Longest Hockey Game, has made a decision to ban a local hockey league from playing on the town's ponds.
According to Chestermere Pond Hockey League (CPHL) organizer Jesse Richard, the town refused to let the league turn local storm ponds into rinks, citing a concern for the players' safety.
Richard told Sun News Network the CPHL, which formed earlier this year after a large road hockey group wanted to continue the tradition into winter, had gone so far as to fundraise and recruit sponsorships from local businesses.
Nets and rink equipment had been purchased and "there was an incredible outpouring of support, not only from the residents - my immediate neighbours, the community as a whole - but also the small businesses in Chestermere," Richards told Sun News, adding the group raised more than $10,000 in just six days.
“We contacted the town, and they said no problem — and they gave us the usual form, saying use at your own risk,” Richard told the Calgary Sun, adding after approval was granted the league began purchasing equipment for the rinks.
But, suddenly, the town wanted a second look at the proposal.
Richard and his group had taken ice samples, acquired insurance and did everything the town asked, but were still denied approval.
"There are considerable safety concerns about placing structures on a storm pond … and testing doesn’t always give an accurate idea of the integrity of the ice,” said Mayor Patricia Matthews in an official release.
Alberta's wild and unpredictable weather, including deep cold and Chinook winds, often cause surging water levels that can cause "air pockets to form under the ice making it unstable and dangerous, even when the ice is thicker,” reads a Town of Chestermere advisory on storm pond safety.
Which is a shame, says Jay Schaffer, co-organizer of the CHPL.
"People want this really bad," he told the National Post.
Several Canadian towns allow games of shinny on their storm ponds. In Saskatoon skaters do so at their own risk, while Edmonton officials routinely check storm pond conditions for skaters.
The Town of Chestermere continues to hold up the ban, despite promises from the CPHL to perform rigorous ice safety checks and even set up video surveillance to monitor unauthorized rink usage, reports the National Post.
Schaeffer argues, however, that the town's decision to ban the safe, monitored environment the CPHL would have provided puts those using the ponds without permission in even more danger.
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