Flaman Outdoor Classic chairman Bruce Vance announced back in October that the Prince Albert Mintos, A & W Bears and two Prince Albert minor hockey teams would be taking to the ice for the unprecedented event.
“It’s the first outdoor games in the entire province, as far as the SHA (Saskatchewan Hockey Association) is telling us and as far as games that count in SHA league standings,” Vance said.
The regulation sized 200- by 85-foot rink was installed and relocated directly west of the indoor facility in 2010. Since the install, Vance had always thought about holding outdoor games at the site.
“It’s taken a lot of work,” Vance said. “There have been a lot of modifications to the rink in the past number of months to get it ready, but it’s looking really good and we’re excited for the event to finally happen here next Saturday.”
Among the modifications were the installations of four player gates and bleachers from Prime Ministers’ Park.
“The original gate that we got only had a total of two player gates in it, and of course you need six player gates,” Vance said. “Over the spring and summer, the community club ordered and then we had to install the four player gates on the north side of the facility.That was certainly a little bit more manual labour for the community club, but great volunteerism got that done.”
As well, Flaman is donating lights, tents and heaters. There will be porta potties outside and patrons will be able to access washrooms inside the facility.
“A scoreboard is coming in from Kinistino -- from the hockey rink there -- and there are just a lot of other little things that have to happen to make it occur,” Vance said.
The Crescent Heights Community Club will operate the canteen and has contracted a senior hockey team to set up a beer garden for the day.
Vance went on to credit Crescent Heights caretaker Gary Fischer for being so passionate about maintaining the ice at the rink.
“He has taken his time with his stuff to make sure the ice is in as good a shape as it could be, so he started building ice in early December and that’s about when we started bringing the bleachers in,” he said.
A lot of pre-planning went into the event, with committee meetings being held for more than a year. However, adjustments to the installation planning had to be made along the way.
While not official, if the event does become an annual occurrence, Vance said having the logistics and operations already down will make it easier to hold.
As for the players, playing official games at Crescent Heights will be a special experience.
Both goaltender Jessica Vance of the Bears and defenceman Eric Young of the Mintos consider Crescent Heights to be their home rink.
“I still go there to play shinny and have been there already a few times this year,” Jessica Vance said. “I have some fond memories there.”
Crescent Heights is the first rink Young ever played on.
“It should be a good experience but calming to know I’m still at home,” he said. “Crescent Heights is probably where I’ve played the most ... It’s the first year that (an outdoor game is) happening. And me being a third year, just being from here, I’m pretty honoured.”
While he has played some shinny hockey this week, Young said it’s going to be both a painful and different game playing outside.
“We’re planning on wearing mini-mitts and that’s about it. Anything else would throw us off our game,” he said. “You can wear extra clothes playing shinny, but then having to play a hockey game, you have to wear all of the equipment. There’s no room for warm clothes, really.”