Construction begins on new U of S rink
As a line of dignitaries inserted shovels into dirt Friday, providing a ceremonial launch for the University of Saskatchewan’s new multi-sport arena, some people spared a thought for the 88-yearold senior citizen across the road.
Dave Adolph, the Huskie men’s hockey coach, said he’ll sort of miss rusty old Rutherford Rink when the team shifts to its new facility in 2018.
“I don’t know any different,” Adolph said. “That’s where I played and that’s where I was an assistant coach and now a head coach. It’s been 35 years and that’s the only rink I know. I’m no different than a pig in a barn; it’s my home and I’m comfortable there.”
Not that Adolph was running around, trying to block construction of the new place.
“I’m not going to jump up and down (with excitement) until the piles start going in, hopefully in the next week or so. I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said of the new arena finally getting into the construction phase after decades of fruitless wishing from many in the hockey community.
“Everybody’s made a big deal about our facility and how it was always a negative in terms of our recruiting process. We’ve always had the good fortune of getting the Saskatchewan kids to come home, but now maybe we can reach a little farther. It’s going to be an elite complex that elite athletes are going to want to come to.”
A couple hundred people showed up on a chilly Friday afternoon to celebrate the $42.9-million arena, which will be known as Merlis Belsher Place, in honour of the man who donated $12.25 million to the project.
Belsher was on hand Friday, looking pleased with what’s happened over the last several months.
“It seems like a dream. It just happened so fast,” he told reporters, referring not to the wait that stretched from decade to decade, but to what’s happened since they announced last fall that a new arena would be built.
Earlier in his remarks to the crowd, Belsher said: “I’ve learned that to raise money is no easy task, particularly in these economic times. But what happened here is people rolled their sleeves up and got the job done.”
Next up is the laying of the foundation. Piling work starts in early May. The goal is to have everything ready for the Huskies’ home opener in the fall of 2018.
The building will be a twin-ice, multi-sport facility with two NBAlength practice courts for Huskie basketball teams.
And, as a special bonus, there will be no in-game delays caused by rusted rafters sending a brown shower onto the ice surface, which periodically happens at Huskies hockey bouts.
There’s a lot of memories at the old building, noted Huskies hockey player Kohl Bauml — a mixed bag, as they say.
“Some we won’t miss, such as the rust delays, overcrowded dressing rooms and the recurring lack of hot water,” Bauml said. “Some we will miss, like the atmosphere created by the fans who were being squeezed together shoulder to shoulder.”
The twin sheets will generate extra local ice time for Saskatoon Minor Hockey and its teams, putting a dent in scheduling issues that can best be described as highly crowded at present.
Fred Sasakamoose, the first full-blooded treaty Indian to play in the NHL, offered up a blessing Friday in front of the gathered throng. Sasakamoose, noting that he came from a “slough-hockey” background, was quick to note the community aspect of the new facility.
“The facility that you have, my grandchildren can share that with you,” Sasakamoose said.