Her father and brother were involved with hockey, her mother with figure skating. The rink was their family. Roberts would sit behind the boards as she kept stats, keeping a keen eye on the action in the days before Plexiglas separated players from fans.
“It was pretty risky. We certainly didn’t get any danger pay,” she laughed.
Decades later, Roberts is still dedicating her efforts towards helping the rink with little return for herself – like many members of the North Shore area. The days of describing the arena floor as “aging” have long since been replaced by the past tense, and facing a $200,000 minimum bill, Roberts has led up a group looking for outside help.
Their appeal is a familiar one, as the community once again vies for a spot in Kraft Hockeyville’s Top 10 rankings.
“It was something the community had talked about before and something we’ve tried hard for in other years,” Roberts said. “But that’s our attitude on the North Shore. We don’t give up easy.”
Since being built in 1974, the concrete floor beneath the arena ice has never been replaced. After researching where the money would be most effectively spent, the group found the floor to be the direst need.
After sending in an application, the group lead by Roberts learned their bid was accepted. They fit the criteria to move on to the next round. Next, a panel of judges will sift through the hundreds of nominations and narrow it down to 10 – five from the East and five from the West.
Cracking the Top 10 alone will guarantee the arena $20,000, with a trip to the Top 4 garnering $50,000. The winner comes away with $100,000 and a pre-season NHL game.
While the contest money would be nice, Roberts said the community isn’t putting all their eggs in Kraft’s basket.
“Even if this doesn’t work out, I’m confident we would keep the rink going,” she said. “It’s just how we are here. The rink is such a big part of the North Shore, we’d raise the money somehow. But obviously, this would be the easiest way.”
The application form says replacing the floor is “essential to ensure the future of the arena – the home of our minor hockey association, other hockey teams, young and old, skaters, curling, broomball, the Oktoberfest, and cultural events.”
The application form continues on to say the centre is vital for the North Shore and there would be a great void without it.
The bid comes on the heels of a plea from Tatamagouche Minor Hockey Association president Ryan Rees to save minor hockey on the North Shore. With dwindling numbers, Rees has planned a public meeting for March 10 at 7 p.m. at the arena. The aim is to start a discussion about boosting registration numbers while promoting programs that cut costs for parents. They’ll also discuss the history of hockey on the North Shore, something Roberts is familiar with.
“There’s a photo of a group of young men in the 1930s who would ride in the back of a truck filled with hay to get to games across the North Shore,” she said. “They’d bundle up in the hay to stay warm. If that’s not Hockeyville material, I don’t know what is.”
Kraft will announce this year’s 10 finalists on March 14. From there, a round of voting will take place from March 21-23 to determine the final four.