Just play

Posted: January 13, 2017 at 8:44 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Like moths to a flame, kids manage to find ice upon which to play. Perhaps it is related to the sense that migrating animals rely upon to return to the place of their birth. It is encouraging to know this instinct has not been extinguished.

It is a cliché: The snow-covered pond amid the farm field with a pair of aspiring NHLers whiling away a few thin wispy hours of winter. But it’s a good cliché. It’s one we recognize as our own. It reminds us that life happens outdoors in January despite the forces propelling us inside. Apart.

Bruce Cronk hadn’t yet finished clearing the snow from the thin and still forming ice of the outdoor rink at Midtown Meats and kids were beginning to arrive on Sunday morning. Suddenly this mostly dormant lot in the middle of the village had come to life again. From all directions, kids descended upon the rink. Some with skates. Some with hockey sticks and pucks. Some with nothing but enthusiasm, energy and a warm toque and mittens.

This outdoor rink is special. There is no fee to use it. There are skates, of all sizes, to borrow. To use. To enjoy. There are hockey sticks, pucks, and nets. There are lights to stretch the short winter days. All free for everyone.

The rink is Mike Hymus’s creation and achievement. It is his homage to his dad. Hymus owns the former meat plant property in the village. He purchased the professional rink new last year and had a smaller version installed last winter. A larger version reopened on Sunday.

Each night as I walked home along Wharf Street last winter—no matter the hour—I could hear the young voices, still shouting for the long pass, celebrating the Crosby-like goal, or cheering the first few steps of the new skater. It was joyous.

Not in the sentimental meaning of the word, but rather in the more fundamental, almost religious sense. Consider the fact that few of us have little need to go outdoors, especially when it is cold and snowy. We shuffle from home to a heated car or bus, then back indoors.

We don’t even need to go outdoors to socialize. Ever-present devices ensure our circle of friends are never more than a snapchat or text away.

Yet, this patch of ice in Wellington manages, for a time, to bring young people—of all ages—together. Without intermediaries. Without devices. Without commercial interruption. That is Mike’s spectacularly joyous achievement.

His rink is emblematic of the enduring Canadian instinct to go outside despite the snow, the cold and the wind—to embrace winter. It reminds us how easy it is to form human connections, face to face, outdoors.

Hymus’s generosity and unique achievement, as well as Bruce Cronk’s labour to make it happen, are magnificent contributions to this community. It is remarkable that kids can walk over, find a pair of skates that fit, grab a stick and play. There are no barriers. Of class. Of age. Of gender. Of liability-obsessed regulations and rules. Just play. Pure and simple.

Hymus has raised eyebrows with his acquisition of this central Wellington property and others along Wharf Street. His approach is unconventional, his sensibilities a bit skewed and his attention span seems fleeting. Some worry that he may not share the sense of history, tradition, and unique character deeply felt in this village. There is a lingering sense too, that perhaps he is hoping to buy some latitude from Shire Hall and the broader community for other plans.

I don’t buy it. There are easier, less expensive and more effective ways to do that.

This rink—this gift—clearly demonstrate a good heart and an eagerness to help make life better for kids he’s never met.

It is clear from watching children play on this busy rink, that he has, in his way, helped make Wellington a better place. More fun. More playful. For everyone. Moreover, he is using his own capital and resources to do it.

He is following a long tradition in this community. The first rink in Wellington was funded and built by folks in this village who wanted this facility for their children. The ball diamonds too. The most recent addition— The Field of Dreams—is a regulation baseball diamond complete with lights for nighttime games. It is largely the result of the work of folks including Matt Ronan and John and Jane Allison. There are many other examples. Jim Dunlop’s efforts to build the new arena. The County Marathon. Minor Hockey. Soccer. Kids of Steel. Swimming. The list is long.

Wherever there is recreation or sport in Wellington, and I expect in the broader County, its roots can be drawn to an individual or small group who decided our kids deserved better, and made it happen.

Mike Hymus joins an elite group of community builders.