150 HOCKEY ON THE HILL
Work begins on outdoor rink
It seems a bit early to be constructing an outdoor hockey rink.
Yet, workers were laying the groundwork Thursday for what figures to be a unique skating pad on the lawn of Parliament Hill, one that should provide fitting closure to Canada 150 celebrations.
Heritage Canada, along with the Ottawa Senators and the Bell Capital Cup tournament, have announced the temporary rink will be used for various public skating and hockey initiatives from Dec. 7 to 31.
It isn’t hard to imagine a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Hill, on and around an outdoor arena in the heart of the nation’s capital. By then, the Canada 150 festivities will have come full circle, as they began with a splashy sendoff last New Year’s Eve, with music and fireworks at the foot of Parliament Hill.
For hockey fans, though, the sight of a skating rink being built on the Hill will be bittersweet. Just a year ago, the Senators were still holding out hope of accommodating tens of thousands of people for an NHL Outdoor Classic at this iconic venue. The potential was there for spectacular backdrop camera shots for an NHL game.
Last November, that idea was officially nixed as Heritage Canada deemed the logistics of staging a full-sized NHL event, for up to 30,000 spectators, unfeasible.
Security and access issues were raised, as the day-to-day workings of parliamentary business had to be considered.
There were secondary issues, among them the numerous rules and regulations on Parliament, which ban the sale of commercial products, food and alcohol.
Instead, the region will settle for what could be billed as the ‘Outdoor Game Lite’ at Parliament Hill. The actual NHL game (the NHL 100 Classic between the Senators and visiting Montreal Canadiens) will take place in the open air of the Lansdowne Park football stadium on Dec. 16.
The Senators were counting on securing the Parliament Hill venue for the Outdoor Classic and only grudgingly accepted the Lansdowne Park home of the CFL Redblacks as a Plan B.
It does have its pragmatic advantages, as the 2017 Grey Cup will take place there on Nov. 26 and the NHL will be able to use some of the same temporary seating in place for the Grey Cup. The NHL 100 Classic is designed to mark the 100th anniversary of the inaugural NHL game between Ottawa and Montreal, played on Dec. 19, 1917.
The Senators will be looking to avenge a 7-4 loss to the Canadiens in that first encounter in 1917.
Meanwhile, on the Hill this December, instead of Erik Karlsson and the Senators against the Canadiens, fans could be treated to a decidedly lower key alumni game involving former Senators players. But that is not all.
While the full details are yet to be announced, the Senators confirmed Thursday that the events to take place on Parliament Hill include a practice by the current Senators team, Senators alumni events, community activities and opportunities for children and youth.
“This will be an incredibly unique rink, set on Canada’s pre-eminent backdrop, Parliament Hill,” said Senators owner Eugene Melnyk in a statement.
Considering the operating dates for the temporary rink overlap the annual Bell Capital Cup hockey tournament at the Canadian Tire Centre (Dec. 27-31) and other local rinks, it is expected there will be at least some Bell Capital Cup involvement at Parliament Hill.
Todd White, a former Senators centre and honorary chair of the Bell Capital Cup, said the opportunity for children to skate and play hockey outdoors on the Hill “will provide a pure and unique Canadian family hockey experience for the participating children and teams.”
Beyond the Senators and their minor hockey tournament, Heritage Canada has its own marquee events planned for this up and coming skating facility.
On Dec. 7, the official rink opening coincides with the annual Christmas Lights Across Canada spectacle, a multimedia show with fireworks and music.
The rink launch also dovetails nicely with the Canada 150 Skating Day already scheduled for Dec. 10, a national event involving community arenas throughout the country.
Construction crews begin building a skating rink on Parliament Hill on Thursday. The rink will be used from Dec. 7 to 31.