The Cape Breton Blizzard Women’s Hockey Association and Cape Breton University Capers women’s team teamed up to raise $90,000 for the revitalization of the Canadian Gaming Complex in Sydney, NS.
Blizzard president Christina Lamey believes the decommissioned arena will be the first arena dedicated to women’s hockey teams in Canada once the renovations are completed.
The campaign, which also included a new vehicle lottery, was launched in mid-November.
For 13-year-old Mya Rendell, who plays for the Blizzard U-15 AAA team, money means more ice time at home.
“I hope we can host tournaments like SEDMHA or the Sobeys Cup, or any women’s tournament that we’ve never had a chance to host before,” Rendell said. “It will be really great.”
He said his entire team was excited. “Incredible,” he said.
Last year, Rendell’s team had to cancel some practice and games, and this year the girls’ teams often struggled to stay on the ice.
Lamey is confident that the project will facilitate the league’s struggle with the current lack of ice.
“It’s a lot of work when you try to organize a girls’ hockey league that’s bigger than most of the local junior hockey federations, actually almost all of them, and we don’t have ice in our house,” she said.
“We were really happy to have reached $90,000. Wow, it looked like we took another big step forward in the effort to revitalize the track.”
Blizzard won this year’s Kraft Hockeyville competition. The association was one of four finalists competing for the $250,000 grand prize.
The amount required for the renovation has not been determined. Lamey said preliminary designs were not completed.
“The boards are out, the old broken ice factory is gone,” Lamey said. “What comes next is a new cooling system, new dashboards, new scoring clock, new Zamboni, basically everything that makes a building a track.”
He said the rink should be available for the 2024/2025 hockey season.
The ice surface is Olympic size, but will have a smaller NHL size once renovations are complete.
They will be hosting an NHL game in the near future, Lamey said, adding that “this is something people will hear more and more about in the coming months.”
Lamey said she was overwhelmed by the community support. So far, government support has been verbal.
“We have received positive words of encouragement from all our elected representatives,” he said.
According to Lamey, the ice will be used by the CBU women’s team and the Blizzard Hockey League, which consists of at least 23 teams in total.
“If I could snap my fingers, we’d be on it right now,” he said. “Can’t be fast enough.”
Accessible hockey center
Dr. For Gina Deveaux and her husband Steve, renovations mean more accessible ice.
11 years ago they started a sledge hockey program for the physically handicapped. Cape Breton Hammers operate out of Center 200.
“The people there were very nice to us, but this is not a sled-ready track,” said Steve Deveaux.
Sledge hockey players need a flat surface and accessible dressing rooms to enter and exit the ice.
“We are really hopeful that the new upgraded facility will be fully accessible and skid-ready,” he said. “This is a really big thing for our association.”
Gina said the renovations were personally important to the couple. Their son Kurtis is also one of the actors.
“It actually pushed us to keep going and we’re very happy we did,” he said.
He said it provides a sport for people with disabilities, “And we want them to be able to play that sport the way it’s meant to be played.”
With the new renovation, the couple hopes the Canadian Gaming Complex will become a hub for the sled hockey community.