Roller skates hit arena

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo Dale Loutit, the recreation programmer with the Town of Hay River, holds one of the pairs of roller skates that people can borrow to try roller skating or roller derby at the ice-free arena.

Paul Bickford/NNSL photo
Dale Loutit, the recreation programmer with the Town of Hay River, holds one of the pairs of roller skates that people can borrow to try roller skating or roller derby at the ice-free arena.

Hay River’s ice-free arena will become a temporary roller rink on April 27.

“In order to use the rink more, I was thinking: how about a roller rink?” asked Dale Loutit, the recreation programmer with the Town of Hay River. “I’ve also had some kids come and ask me if they can go roller skating on the arena. So I decided to pick a few days to see how it would go and see if there is interest and if people would come use it.”

To begin with, the roller rink will be open for two hours on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

“People are welcome to come and use their roller blades, like the in-line skates,” said Loutit. “Or they’re welcome to use the four-wheel traditional roller skates.”

She is not sure if a roller rink has ever been created before in the arena.

The Town of Hay River also recently obtained the gear of the organization which had been trying to get a roller derby team organized in town.

The town now has extra roller skates, helmets and protective gear that people can use for free, said Loutit, “so if people don’t have roller skates then they can come and borrow our stuff and go skating.”

She said, if people show up for the roller rink, it will continue until the ice returns in the fall.

There will be a drop-in fee charged.

Loutit said she is going to try the roller rink for a month to see if it’s popular and take statistics.

“It’s all ages, as long as you’re wearing a helmet,” she said. “Because it is cement and you’re in movement.”

In addition to the roller rink, Loutit said adult roller derby will begin at the arena on May 2, again to gauge interest in the sport.

Three or four years ago, a group of women started a society in an attempt to create a team called the Roller Girls, and the effort lasted a couple of years.

“We just didn’t have enough local interest,” said Trish Harrington, the former president of the society. “We couldn’t get enough women to come out to play.”

The Roller Girls would rent the curling rink or the arena surface for practice in the hopes of creating a team to play Yellowknife and High Level, Alta.

“But we didn’t really quite get to playing games against other teams,” said Harrington. “It was all training.”

The society was dissolved at an April 18 meeting and its equipment was donated to the town for its roller derby initiative.

Harrington said she is excited about the town’s effort to start roller derby.

It will be for ages 16 and older.

Harrington encourages people to try either roller skating or roller derby.

“I’d say give it a try. It’s fun,” she said. “You fall once and then you’re not scared of falling again. The initial fall, that’s what people are scared of. It’s a lot of fun and it’s great exercise, and it’s a chance to meet new people.”

Like Loutit, Harrington doesn’t personally remember a roller rink in the arena.

“I remember hearing about it,” she said. “I’ve heard people say they used to have roller rink but I think it was like maybe in the ’70s or maybe the early ’80s.”

–Paul Bickford