Roller Hockey To Leave Burton?
It’s hard to know even where to begin, other than to simply state the reason why this is being posted. After 15 years of operation, the hall association has decided to convert the outdoor rink at Burton’s John McCormack Memorial Park into a tennis/pickleball court. While the nets themselves will only be up during the springs and summers, the alterations that will have to be made to the court in order to accommodate the nets will possibly make it unfeasible for proper competitive roller hockey.
Yes, after 15 years, we will lose the court that we helped build; a consequence of shifting demographics in an aging community. To say that this was a blindside to us is an understatement. Through 15 years of players and friends moving in and out, new leagues coming and going, cold years and hot years, the one constant in Burton Hockey was that the rink in Burton was always there for us. Suddenly, we are now faced with the very real possibility that roller hockey in the Arrow Lakes is, for all intents and purposes, dead as of next month.
For those of us who have been around since the beginning of Burton Hockey – back when we were just homesick young folks coming home to Burton, Nakusp, and Fauquier for the summer and looking for something to do; back before we had an official name; back when our website was a .txt file copied-and-pasted onto an Angelfire site – we’ve been spending our entire adult lives in and around McCormack Park. Who can forget those street hockey games in the Burton School parking lot that planted the seeds in the minds of Joern Hornhardt, Simon Hilton, and Stefan Klopp that one day we could have a real, honest-to-goodness court to play? It was those seeds that ultimately bloomed into the Burton Hockey we know and love today – a unique game unlike any other.
So many names are tied into the history of that humble court at McCormack Park. Heck, Reg Reimer’s name is literally embedded in the court (it was his redi-mix, after all)! Hometown Burton boys like Chris Jackins, Joern Hornhardt, Simon Hilton, Karl Detta, and Lorne and Laird Bilinski, who pushed for the rink and made it a reality. Karl Detta, who spearheaded the repaving back in 2003-04 and gave us the amazing asphalt that is the foundation of the court to this day. Lee Orr and Nathan Robson, who scavenged all of the spare wood and string they could find to put together our humble boards. Russ and Laird Bilinski, who painted the lines and creases. And, finally, Kyle Grenier, who took it open himself to replace the old nets with our current nets that he built himself out of nothing more than PVC piping and a desire to see hockey in Burton keep going.
More than that, the memories we’ve formed in Burton over the past 15 years are too many to measure. From the Jared MacDonalds to the Chris Jackins; the Oliver Koth-Kappuses to the Ben de Wits; old heroes such as Mitch Peterson and Robert Rogers to young guns of today like Ryan Bateman and Kellan Nishida. People like Stefan Klopp, Bernie Koth-Kappus, and Joern Hornhardt, who, like too many, ultimately had to leave our valley to find vocations elsewhere, but who couldn’t stand to go without the game they’d come to love in Burton, and so established Vancouver Roller Hockey to continue the Burton Hockey tradition at West Vancouver’s Ambleside Park with a new roster of players and friends. Rather than split us apart, it served to only double our enjoyment of the game, for in addition to our regular games, we could count on a giant reunion session every year where friends from opposite sides of the province could gather at McCormack Park and celebrate Burton Hockey together.
As of this writing, there have been 15 seasons and 388 sessions of Burton Hockey. That’s the equivalent of six full games every day for nearly 13 months, or approximately 49 consecutive days of hockey without a break, plus countless extra hours of organising for each session from folks like Joern Hornhardt, Lee Orr, Bernie Koth-Kappus, Seamus O’Connor, Stefan Klopp, Kyle Grenier, and a whole host of others (for your humble statistician, you can add another 40 percent or so to those totals for stats compilation, write-ups, awards, and updates). Lifelong friendships have literally been developed, nurtured, and cemented because of Burton Hockey and McCormack Park. The 220-or-so souls who have played in our three leagues over the years owe it all to a modest, chain-linked basketball court with a couple of hockey nets in a friendly mountain village called Burton. No matter what happens to us or where we play, our leagues will always and forever carry the name Burton Hockey as a tribute to this legacy.
Naturally, the players of BUSH must now review our options. With so many young Burtonians having moved on from the valley, our core group of players and organisers have been drawn from Nakusp and vicinity for some time. There is not, and has never been, a free-access roller court/rink in Nakusp. The Fauquier rink has been unplayable for some years now. The nearest outdoor rink is 75 minutes away in Edgewood. For those of us who carried the Burton Hockey torch to the Lower Mainland and created Vancouver Roller Hockey, the roller hockey dream continues as long as there are people, for there will always be plenty of places to play, and for that we are thankful. Burton Hockey will continue to live on through VRH, and our group will soldier on one way or another. Perhaps the loss of our home court – for the BUSH players, our only court – will spark the minds of enterprising souls who will choose to build a new free-access rink somewhere in the Nakusp area and reignite the game in the future. For now, however, our BUSH roller hockey dream is over.