Craig McDougall and his son Cade at the covered sports box Valley Ball Hockey has been offered, after much of its usual season in the George Preston Recreation Centre arena was cut short this year. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)

More ice time means Langley ball hockey players need new arena

The change to the schedule at the George Preston Rec Centre has displaced a local league.

Changes in ice time schedules at a Langley rink could mean trouble for 1,200 ball hockey players as their spring season approaches.

On Monday, Valley Ball Hockey Association (VBHA) president Craig McDougall asked Langley Township council to reverse changes that would shut his club out of the George Preston Recreation Centre for half its season.

The ice is scheduled to remain on the floor of the arena at the rec centre into the early spring.

That means the floor-hockey playing VBHA won’t be able to use one of their main venues. McDougall is asking the Township to reverse its decision, particularly in light of what he said was short notice.

Council didn’t make a decision on Monday, but did ask municipal staff for more information, and soon.

“We’re waiting with bated breath to hope they will reverse the decision,” said McDougall.

Valley Ball Hockey has about 1,200 players, from ages five to 18, and 150 volunteers including coaches.

About 80 to 85 per cent of their members are from Langley, with the remainder mostly from Abbotsford, and some from Chilliwack, McDougall told the council.

“Langley is our home, it always has been,” he said.

The club only learned of the change with three months before the season was set to begin, he said.

The decision was apparently made by Township staff.

“In defense of staff, there’s a huge number of users competing for ice time,” Councillor Bob Long said at Monday’s meeting.

Long noted that the Langley Rivermen’s schedule was likely one of the factors in the change, as the team is hoping to get into the playoffs this year, and the junior hockey team plays out of George Preston.

According to Rob Stare, deputy director of parks and recreation, the decision was made and Township staff were notified in the second week of January. Dry floor users were contacted shortly after that.

Ice-based programs taking the place of dry floor programs include Rivermen games, various Township-run learn to skate and community skate programs, figure skating, and a number of ice and hockey events that are expected to bring in sports tourism to Langley.

The change will also affect Langley minor lacrosse players, who played on the dry floor in their spring season.

If Valley Ball Hockey can’t get space at the George Preston indoor arena, their options may be to move outside.

An outdoor covered arena at George Preston is available.

McDougall was not enthusiastic about the prospect, noting that ball hockey is an indoor sport.

He also noted that the covered paved arena doesn’t have seating for viewers, a proper score display with a penalty countdown, or glass above the boards.

However, those upgrades are scheduled to be installed in the covered facility by this April.

Another possibility is finding space elsewhere, McDougall said, but there are few private facilities, and costs would go up quite a bit.

Since the word of the possible loss of the George Preston Centre indoor location has gone public, at least one family, new to the sport, has pulled out and asked for their money back.

He expects more families will follow.

Langley Advance

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