Labrador's northern coast is probably one of the toughest places in Canada to build an outdoor rink, but the payoff is worth it.
I figure if the kids show up and use it, we've done something right," says Cst. Dylan Bergmark, who was motivated to build an outdoor rink in Hopedale, N.L., last fall when popular indoor sports, such as volleyball, were cancelled at Amos Comenius Memorial School because of COVID-19.
It has also been years since people had a rink in the northern Labrador community, where heavy snow, strong winds and even freezing rain can play havoc with outdoor ice sheets.
We don't normally have a place to skate during the winter because once the snow comes, the ponds stay covered," says 16-year-old Kendra Winters.
Bergmark, a Prince Edward Island native, his colleague Cst. Josh Seaward and local volunteers, targeted a small pond covered with windswept snow and uneven ice as the location of the outdoor rink. They cleared the ice and lugged a generator and sump pump to the site.
The equipment worked really well and once we flooded the ice, the rink turned out better than I thought," says Bergmark, who played senior hockey during previous postings to northern British Columbia.
They put a lot of hard work and time into it and it was a great place just to hang out," says Winters.
Although no case of COVID-19 has been reported in the town of more than 550, social distancing requirements and personal protective measures are in place. For some, those efforts have added additional stressors in the community, which already suffers from profound social problems.
The rink has also provided a much-needed opportunity for people to get outdoors and have some fun, hosting 20 to 30 people at times.
I've put on my goalie gear and let the kids take some shots on me," says Bergmark, who wears an RCMP jersey for the occasion. "
One thing I've realized is we need more sticks in this town and everyone shoots right."
It also provides an opportunity for the community to get to know the officers who are usually posted there for two years.
Dylan's rink is definitely helping with that this year," says Seaward.