50 years since arena idea first raised at Lake Cowichan

Hockey is part of life at Cowichan Lake.

Anyone would think it always has been. For many residents, it seems like just yesterday when the buzz around town on a Monday was what had happened at the arena on Saturday night, especially following one of the exciting games between the guys from the Lake and their hated rivals, Port Alberni. Everybody knew about it because everyone had been there.

But it was only half a century ago that the rink was built.

According to a story in The Lake News by writer Rolli Gunderson, opening day was huge at the arena.

“Over 1,200 skaters turned out for a weekend of free public skating on the new ice rink. Next door at the curling rink, things were hopping with curlers participating in instruction sessions and the start of league play on the newly completed sheets of curling ice. Young and old would-be hockey players, figure skaters, their coaches and others were ready to begin,” she wrote in an article.

“The idea of an arena began with a group of local people, including Herb Halliday, Bert Brown, Bob Hepburn, Scotty Cook, Ken Irving, Ted Knott, Jim Hunt and Norm Rooke.”

Local folk invested, a referendum was held and “the front-page headline (Lake News, Dec. 10, 1969 issue) screamed out ‘WHOPPING MAJORITY FAVOUR ICE ARENA’,” Gunderson wrote. And she was right. With 91 per cent in favour, the residents blew away the idea of a 60 per cent majority.

In January 1970, preliminary work began.

Referendum pledges were collected; donations of money for equipment and furniture were received as were hours of service in-kind in the form of equipment and effort. Hockey, skating and curling clubs were formed throughout the year it took to complete the big complex.

The first arena manager was appointed in July 1970 naming former Victoria Cougars hockey player and coach Doug Anderson. Later Buck Hollingdrake assumed the position, which he held until his retirement many years later.

The opening of the area in December 1970 was, in the history of Lake Cowichan, “a glorious day”, the records say. From nothing but rough ground to a new arena complex accomplished in just one year is almost unthinkable now.

Now, 2020 also marks the 50th Anniversary for Minor Hockey in Lake Cowichan.

Lake Cowichan and District Minor Hockey Association has begun the process of planning an event to celebrate this anniversary; it will likely take place in September 2020.

The annual Minor Hockey Jamboree takes place Saturday, Jan. 18.

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