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There won't be minor hockey in Matheson this season

The ice surface isn't ready and now that workers are locked out, the association didn't know when ice would be available
2022 03 07 hockey-ice-rink-zamboni-pexels-tony-schnagl-6468601

Matheson youth won't be hitting the ice in their own community this season.

The Black River-Matheson Minor Hockey Association has voted unanimously to dissolve its 2023-2024 season. Association president Eric Levasseur said the decision was made for a number of reasons and is mostly related to the recent CUPE Local 1490 lockout, which started on Monday (Oct. 16).

“We were initially told that ice would be ready for Oct. 7. My understanding is that as of last night, the ice was to the point where paint could start being applied,” he said.

This week, the township locked out 14 fulltime municipal workers. One of the services affected by the labour dispute is maintaining the ice service.

“I called (Mayor Doug Bender) on Monday morning to ask if the compressor would be shut down or if everything would be maintained as it was. He stated there was a contingency plan in place and that the ice surface would be maintained,” Levasseur said.

“To our knowledge, there were no talks scheduled to happen in regards to resolving the lockout. Ultimately, between our ice surface not being ready, the mayor officially stating that the arena ice surface would not be available, and not having any kind of indication on how long this lockout could last, we had a unanimous vote to dissolve this season.”

Bender told TimminsToday he’s unsure why the decision to dissolve the season was made.

“I had spoke with one of the representatives earlier in the week because they were concerned that the arena wasn't going to be maintained, and ice would be gone. Even if we get this thing settled, it would take two weeks to put ice back in, but I explained to them we have a contingency plan to keep the arena ice in place,” Bender said.

“The minute we can get things sorted out, the arena will be back open and they can start. So I don't really know why they've made that decision at this point. They must have their own reasons, but I haven't had a chance to talk to them.”

Levasseur said their job as an association is to get kids on the ice.

“We can't offer that right now nor do we have a timeline on when that might be. Many associations are already well into their seasons. Our association made the selfless decision to dissolve the season in Matheson in hopes that kids could be able to play a sport they love, even if it's not with our association,” he said.

This year, the Northern Ontario Hockey Association (NOHA) approved the Freedom of Movement, which allows children to be registered with another minor hockey association without the need for a waiver from their home association.

“Parents can and have been registering with hockey associations outside of Black River-Matheson. Some parents got tired of waiting because their kids were eager to play. Therefore, a few kids had already been lost to other associations and more were expected to be going,” he said.

The decision will impact some children who may not have the ability to play elsewhere, Levasseur said.

“However, once the labour dispute is over, Matheson normally offers free pickup hockey for ages 13 and over as well as under 13. We're hopeful that Black River-Matheson will still be offering this as it still allows kids the opportunity to get out and play,” he said.

Levasseur said their association fully intends to return for the 2024-2025 season. “And looks forward to welcoming everyone back,” he said.

Bender said he plans to speak with someone later today regarding any updates about negotiations relating to the lockout.

Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Marissa Lentz covers civic issues along the Highway 11 corridor under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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