Deep River, Ont. outdoor hockey rink, tournament brings kids out of lockdown

The saying, "If you build it they will come," was written about a baseball diamond, but in Deep River, Ont. it holds true for a hockey rink too.

The town, local businesses, and community organizers have come together to create a new outdoor hockey rink, which will host Deep River's first ever open air 3-on-3 hockey tournament this weekend.

The event was created by resident Stephan Bouliane out of thin air, just over a week ago.

"We just want to get the kids back on the ice, they've been robbed of their amateur sports these days," Bouliane tells CTV News Ottawa, who previously worked with Collingwood's Junior A hockey team before moving to Deep River in August.

"I've played hockey my entire life and I know how devastating it would be if I was starting a season, stopping a season, and starting a season."

Bouliane says in just four days, 25 teams consisting of 200 players were registered for the tournament, which will span over the course of this and next weekend. Teams ranging from 9-year-olds to adults are each registered in their own divisions and will each get a minimum of three games.

The event has been cleared by the Renfrew County Health Unit to take place. Organizers say COVID-19 and safety protocols will be in place at Grouse Park, where the event will take place.

No spectators will be allowed but the games will be streamed live for viewing on Clean & Creative Lifestyle Co.'s Facebook page.

For 13-year-old Teryn Weaver, whose team Hattrick Heroes got to test out the brand new ice Friday, the weekend tournament is a welcome reprieve from lockdown, virtual learning, and limited socialization.

"I was pretty upset for having (my hockey league) shut down," says the right-winger. "I don't think we've played for like a month, so I think this will be a great opportunity to get out and play."

What's more impressive about the new outdoor hockey rink in Deep River is that it did not exist one week ago. With COVID shutting down arenas, there was no location that could host a hockey tournament, so Bouliane rallied the town and local businesses to sponsor building the rink.

On Monday, where the rink sits was a patch of cleared snow and grass. Now on Friday, it's ready for weekend action.

"Yeah, I can't believe they made this in about a week, it looks awesome," says Weaver, admiring the blue lines, face off circles, and creases. "I think this is awesome that Deep River is actually doing this for us."

The tournament is also serving as a platform to raise money to purchase real hockey boards and install a permanent outdoor hockey rink.

"It's anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 depending on what we want to do," says Bouliane. "To purchase the actual arena boards that we can set up an outdoor rink here for everybody to use and the kids to do this."

"There's been talk about having an outdoor hockey rink in this town for years," remarks Deep River mayor Suzanne D'Eon, visiting the rink Friday afternoon. "Certainly with the efforts put together to build some boards for this one - and I think they're fundraising for the future - certainly this is showing that an outdoor hockey rink is a wanted thing."

The puck drops for the Hattrick Heroes Saturday morning, who are excited to get back on the ice.

"I'm really hoping that we can win this," says Weaver, "but I want to have a lot of fun while I'm playing."