Ice schedule conflicts taking place at Aberfoyle ice pad

Free ice time and hockey seem to be an ongoing issue here in Puslinch Township.

Last month, council overturned a recreation advisory committee recommendation to ban free skating periods for hockey at the Optimist Recreation Centre in Aberfoyle.

The move did not affect free times at the facility for simply skating without hockey sticks. Council’s decision in December was to leave the matter in the hands of recreation staff.

And although the issue may have eased a bit over the holidays, it has yet to disappear.

On Jan. 4, Mayor Dennis Lever asked if there has been any follow up to the direction to leave it up to staff.

Clerk Brenda Law said the centre has been active, including Tim Hortons skating sessions over the holidays.

Law believes leaving the issue in the hands of staff worked well.

“We still have an issue with the bigger hockey players … a bit of bullying and stuff,” she said.

Law hopes to have the chance to speak to recreation staff further.

“I don’t have an answer – but we have to try to address the issue – to make it safer for the younger ones.”

Law said older skaters may have to be banned completely if they do not cooperate. “It’s frustrating,” she said. “They are old enough that should know better. They have to share.”

Councillor Wayne Stokley has heard similar comments regarding older kids on the ice.

“A number of parents were very upset and would not allow their kids to go on – justifiably so because of the possible impact of a puck on their bodies.”

Stokley added that luckily there was a free skate [with no sticks] following that session, so the residents waited. “But it was unfortunate they had to wait it out.”

Stokley stressed, “We’re not just talking about teens, but young adults who were not listening to direction from parents on the ice. I’m still concerned about the safety factor.”

Councillor Susan Fielding has also talked to a number of local residents. Near the end of a recent skate, Fielding reported that three older girls came on the ice with hockey sticks and were told it was supposed to be skating time.

“They did step off – not happily and went to an Optimist Club member who told them the same thing.”

Fielding said it seems to take someone to speak to the individuals directly to get results. “We’ve all heard stories that some people don’t take it very well.”

At the same time, she pointed to positive aspects of those skating times as well as Tim Hortons representatives handing out certificates for hot chocolate and the dressing rooms being opened to offer a space to warm up.

Council Ken Roth said a resident had called with a potential solution to the free skate with sticks issue.

He explained it is essentially a family skating time where families and players of equal calibre play against one another.

Apparently a similar setup is in place in Toronto and works like a charm, Roth said. “And it’s all run by the families. All you need is a horn and a time clock.”

He said that might eliminate the problem.

Roth noted the other thing he has heard is some individuals are bringing flood lights and plugging them in at the facility to play in the early morning hours. “They’re bringing in their lights but using our hydro.”

Some councillors said that move is pretty nervy.

Lever noted, “Creativity is alive and well.”

Stokley wondered about the potential of security cameras.

Lever said the idea of some type of surveillance camera is something the township may want to pursue to provide a record of anything that happens.

“And if people know someone is watching, they tend to be better behaved,” he said.