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Olympic rink welcomed by high school hockey

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High school hockey coaches are looking forward to fewer injuries, faster skating, and more passing on the new Olympic ice surface that’s included in the $5.5-million arena project here.

In fact, Bronco head coach Dan Shankowsky hopes Kenora considers going with an Olympic-size rink if it ever builds another one up there.

"I don’t like this in-your-face type hockey we’ve been forced to play on the smaller rinks," Shankowsky said yesterday, adding the team stayed away from the small rink in Keewatin for that reason.

"I think it would open up the game," echoed Muskie head coach Glen Edwards, stressing the emphasis would be on speed. He added the bigger, slower players would be at a disadvantage.

Edwards also felt it would be a real drawing card for the new double-rink arena here, noting Warroad was the only other community in the area to have an Olympic-sized ice surface.

But he admitted there was a down side to the larger rink--it will mean a less physical game, with less hitting and contact.

"I think that’s a part of the game that a lot of the fans enjoy," he noted.

"[But] I definitely think it’s going to be the wave of the future," he added, noting the Muskies would be playing their games on the Olympic-sized rink. "You have to play your games where the stands are."

And while Shankowsky felt the Muskies would have the advantage from practising on the larger rink, he was confident the other teams would catch on quickly when it came time to play.

"It doesn’t take long for everyone to adapt," he explained, saying it would be up to the coaches to fill their players in on how play changes with the rink size.

But not everyone here is happy about the decision, made Dec. 2, to have one North American-sized rink (200’x85’), with a seating capacity of 150, and an Olympic-sized one (200’x100’), with seating for 1,000, in the new 87,000 sq. ft. "L-shaped" facility.

(Memorial Arena rink is 190’x80’ and seats 1,500).

Both the Fort Frances Minor Hockey Association and the local women’s hockey league argued there wasn’t a need for the larger rink--or the extra $150,000 price tag that comes with it.

At a public meeting last Wednesday night, minor hockey president Lynn Kellar said the town was building a second ice surface so user groups could have more ice time.

"It has nothing to do with ice size. It’s ice time," he stressed. "Let’s take our time and make sure that we take a good look at everything."

But if the steering committee felt there was a need for the larger rink, then Kellar asked that it not be made the spectator rink.

"I think it would’ve been better if they had flip-flopped," agreed Gord McQuarrie, adding he was not opposed to the larger rink.

Meanwhile, the Muskies also are bucking for their own dressing room with outside access in the new facility. Edwards asked the room also include showers, bathroom, power and heat, with the local Blue Line Club to pay for the furnishings.

"All Minnesota high school hockey teams have their own dressing rooms," he argued, though admitting not all in Northwestern Ontario did.

"But their programs don’t have the prestige and status ours do."

Edwards also pointed to the revenue the Muskies contribute to the rink, noting that being able to house equipment in their own dressing room allows the team to be on the rink at 3:15 p.m.

"We couldn’t do that without having our equipment there," he said.

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