Chris Howie was nominated by members of his community for CARHA Hockey's outdoor rink contest. We are so thankful for volunteers, like Chris, who keep the rinks active for all to enjoy. On top of the many hours he spends at the rink during the season, he finds ways to give back to those around him.
Q&A with Chris Howie, Newmarket Lions Park Community Rink
There’s no doubt your efforts are truly appreciated by those around you! How long have you been a volunteer in the community?
Yes, we had an 8th great season and the kids loved the rink while also raising 2,500lbs of donations for a local food pantry and women's shelter. My parents raised me to give back to the community so the rink has been a great way to give kids free access to learn and play hockey. I also run a Baseball Academy during the winter months which helps raise equipment donations for children in Latin America and the Dominican Republic, and donated a batting cage at the diamond I played at since 1977.
What makes the rink special for you?
It is very rewarding to see the children having fun with their friends and Families skating together. Just hearing "thank you" from the kids makes my day! My son is now helping me shovel, hunt pucks, flood...and my Father is always available when I need a hand.
How many hours do you spend at the rink in a year? You shared that you are currently cleaning off, rolling up and repairing liners. What keeps you motivated?
Between the prep work fixing the 5 large liners and taping them all together (35 rolls of tarp tape this year), installing the boards, 35 floods to get open...battling Mother Nature and flooding with hot water to make strong ice (2,000-3,000 Litres a night most cold nights)...I estimate that I am at the rink 500-600 hours from mid-November to April.
The Lions Park Community Rink provides a place for children of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy. How do you help with participation so everyone can safely play hockey and skate?
I want young children getting the best ice after school and on weekends so I run the rink by age group; 4-5pm 12 yrs and under, 5-6pm 16yrs and under, 6-7pm 18 yrs and under then all ages. On weekends I reserve time for Family Hockey to get Families out skating and playing together; one year Connor McDavid came to skate with his Father and brother! I did not have access to hockey growing up so I want young children to not feel intimated like I did with older kids flying around during their time.
You encourage the community to chip in and support in various ways. Can you share how people who use the rink can give back too?
My main request is to shovel before you leave and bring donations if they can. I am trying to teach children that others need help in our community and to give back however they can.
It’s fantastic to see how much a part of the community the rink is. Why have you chosen the organizations you did to collect donations on behalf of?
My Family used the food bank in the 1981-1982 recession so it has been important for me to give back to the Newmarket Food Pantry however I can. Belinda's Place is near and dear to me with knowing women that have faced abuse and need help. Inn From the Cold is key as well to help support others that need a helping hand. The Town of Newmarket has been very supportive from the Mayor, Ward Councilor and Operations staff.
For those who want to follow and learn more, where can they find the Lion Park Community Rink:
The rink has 1500 members on Facebook and on Instagram. I welcome children from all communities to come enjoy an ODR that is 3/4 the size of an NHL rink (3 tennis courts big)!