Kamloops minor hockey takes hit as Memorial Arena remains homeless shelter | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops minor hockey takes hit as Memorial Arena remains homeless shelter

Stock image of a young hockey player.
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Kamloops hockey teams are tightening their laces for shorter ice times and longer drives as Memorial Arena continues to be used as a shelter space for homeless people.

Hockey parents are "frothing at the mouth" as they look for where to send their anger, Kamloops Minor Hockey Association board chair Nathan Bosa said.

"We don't want anybody to be left homeless. That's not our intention... but having an old arena like that with the minimal amount of people using it is insane," Bosa said.

Memorial Arena opened as shelter space last winter as COVID-19 health measures restricted hockey players from hitting the ice, but now that health restrictions will allow players to hit the ice, rink availability is being stifled.

The lease to use the arena as shelter space between the City and B.C. Housing was extended indefinitely on July 20 in lieu of a lack of shelter beds in Kamloops.

READ MORE: Don't expect ice at Memorial Arena until more shelter space open in Kamloops

Council voted to extend the lease in a closed council meeting with the expectation that B.C. Housing would expedite the search for new shelter space.

There are 1,100 players in the Kamloops Minor Hockey Association, which is just one of 80 other user groups that use rinks in Kamloops including figure skating groups and adult recreation leagues.

Bosa said there are players on waiting lists and teams that could not form because there just isn't enough ice space to support them. This would be an issue even if there was ice at the Memorial Arena, but the B.C. Housing lease puts further pressure on the need for ice time.

Hockey teams now schedule games and practices outside of Kamloops when needed at places like Logan Lake and Chase.

The Tournament Capital of Canada would normally host 24 tournaments in a year through the minor hockey association. Bosa expects they will have to dial that back to 16 tournaments in the 2021/2022 season, with some taking place in other communities.

READ MORE: More money won't solve homeless crisis in Okanagan, Kamloops but leadership will

When minor hockey presented its concerns to city council, it pointed out the lack of hockey tournament visitors will put further pressure on hotels, restaurants and sporting goods stores. Those businesses get a financial boost during hockey season.

The Okanagan Mainline Amateur Hockey Association, the regional body for minor hockey, also wrote a letter to Kamloops city council to say the loss of ice time affects the entire Thompson-Okanagan region.

The Okanagan hockey association will meet next week, according to Bosa, to schedule the entire season, but the loss of the Memorial Arena represents a loss of over 50 hours of ice time that will have to be extended to other rinks. That doesn't include all the other groups that use the available ice time in Kamloops.

READ MORE: Kamloops missed out on $1M in grant money for homeless supports

City councillor Dale Bass told iNFOnews.ca in August that finding a new space for homeless people was a "work in progress," and the return of the Kamloops Curling Club - that was formerly being used as shelter space -  put further pressure on shelter space in Kamloops.

Bosa, however, isn't convinced that the hockey association should rest blame for a need for shelters on the shoulders of the mayor and council, but the association wants more support from city leadership.

"Working together would be better than working against each other, and I don't feel like we're working together right now," he said. "Obviously, in any case we don't want people thrown on the streets just to play hockey."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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