A small-town arena here in Saskatchewan is gaining worldwide attention thanks to a unique feature. Of course, it is a feature that is well-known in these parts – the stairs that lower down onto the ice at the rink in Lang.
The video above is going viral, with mentions across social media from everyone from the World Hockey Report to the crew at Spittin’ Chiclets.
Of course, the stairs in the arena in Lang aren’t the only thing that makes it unique, according to Mike Williams. He is on the rink board in Lang and is also part of the town council.
“We believe it’s the oldest operating rink in Saskatchewan,” Williams boasted. “It was built in 1928, and the first week of January 1929, it’s been operating ever since.”
The rink, which has a natural ice surface, has seen a number of legends over the years. Dennis and Gene Sobchuk, who had cups of coffee in the NHL, while also staking claims to fame with the Weyburn Red Wings and Regina Pats, hail from Lang.
The town was also home to the Lang Knights, who played in the Soo Line Hockey League.
The rink is flooded each year with the fire hose, and the ice resurfacing machine is an old barrel and mop set up.
“We usually get some pretty good attention and it’s an old barn, and we’re pretty proud of it,” Williams exclaimed.
The rink itself is operated by volunteers, and they handle everything from booking ice times from interested groups to the upkeep of the facilities.
“It takes an army of volunteers to keep it going, and over the years, it’s been a handful of us guys that are just trying to keep it going, and unfortunately, we got the hours, but it takes a lot of money to keep it running for generations to come,” Williams stated. “So, we’re just looking to have a GoFundMe, just trying to raise some money so we can keep our old barn going.”
The GoFundMe, which launched late Tuesday, was planned well ahead of the video of the barn going viral. The timing, though, is rather fortuitous.
The money raised from GoFundMe will be aimed to help with the maintenance of the rink and its upkeep. There are no plans to upgrade the rink to something like an artificial ice plant.
“I think part of the nostalgia of our rink is that it’s such a traditional, old-fashioned arena,” Williams continued. “I don’t think we could ever, being a small village, accommodate with the operational cost of continuing with an artificial rink.”
That said, there are always things around the rink that need to be repaired. One example Williams gave was the puck boards. The work was done by volunteers, but fundraising was needed. He even joked that the cost of the new puck boards was more than the original cost to build the arena back in 1928.
While Lang has a population of roughly 200, the rink does see quite a bit of use. Hockey teams from nearby communities will rent ice time to get some extra practice in. As well, the community uses it frequently as well. The neighbouring town of Milestone will also have games for their tournaments held there on occasion.
The rink itself, though, is the heart of the community, as it is in so many small towns in Saskatchewan.
“Nothing better to do in Saskatchewan when it’s -35° for six months a year than go for a skate at the small-town barn, so that’s why my generation seems to want to keep it going so much, and we’re hoping that the next generations can use it as much as we did when we were young,” Williams added.
Those who are interested in donating to the fundraiser for the arena can do so here.