GAME ON: Hockey returns to Monaco, rink rebuilt

By Adam Brazeau 
CORNWALL, Ontario – The Vincent family’s controversial front yard ice rink is back in action – for now.

A small group of supporters, including Coun. Mark MacDonald, rallied Saturday afternoon at Laura and Brian Vincent’s Monaco Crescent home.

Roughly 15 people shoveled and packed snow around the homemade 30×50-foot rink, five days after city crews removed the 2.5 foot vinyl boards previously in place.

CAO Norm Levac told Seaway News that sports had nothing to do with the city’s decision.

“We’ve been pretty consistent in what we’ve said all along, ‘the removal of the boards was the key part of the exercise, not the ice pad,'” said Levac. “This isn’t about hockey.”

Complaints from neighbours and the structure being too close to municipal rights-of-way led to the rink’s facelift.

“The boards were also a danger because of the interference or potential damage or safety issues of the stakes in the ground that were required to hold up the structure,” he said.

The hot-button issue has been likened to a melting combination of fire and ice. Many questions have been raised. Is it about: a family’s right to enjoy their favourite sport on their own property? Respecting the other Monaco Crescent homeowners who consider it a huge eyesore in an otherwise quiet neighbourhood? Or is it about the law and how even Canada’s most cherished pastime isn’t a good enough reason to break it?

There is no right answer. But as MacDonald put it, it’s been a great lesson on learning how to compromise.

While a handful of volunteers braved frigid temperatures, the Vincents won a crucial battle in their polarizing rink war. Laura expressed her appreciation towards the small but determined group’s effort.

“This was only approved by the city yesterday,” she said. “But even just a few people showing up means a lot to us.”

Karen Whitford was more than glad to help.

“This keeps the kids out of trouble and away from video games,” said Whitford. “They should have left the rink boards up. Not everyone can afford to skate at the Benson Centre.”

MacDonald said it was unfortunate that the Vincents and their neighbours as well as the City of Cornwall couldn’t find a solution before the boards were removed and it became national news.

“It’s time to move forward,” said MacDonald. “We got a lot of press – both good and bad. I’ve received e-mails from all over the country.”

The rink became a popular hangout after it was built last year. So the Vincents were very surprised that the opposing neighbour went directly to city officials instead of them.

“If someone would’ve come to us, we would’ve of definitely worked with them,” said Laura. “We built it over six weeks and not a word was said.”

After the boards were removed on Jan.5, the rink became unusable. Laura said that dozens of local kids who consider her front lawn home ice were heartbroken.

“We had it perfectly level, but after they were removed a foot of water washed out. The kids tried to get on it, but it was too dangerous,” she said. “They haven’t been able to play a game of hockey since.”

That was until the rebuilding effort took place. By late afternoon, the game was back on.

“I got here at 2:30 p.m. or so and there was a ton of people helping to build the walls. People were removing snow from driveways to help build it,” said Tracy Bradbeer, a close friend of the Vincent family.

“It’s going to take a little more work to get it back to what it was. But it’s getting there.”

Her nine-year-old daughter Tory described skating on Monaco Crescent as her favourite thing to do with family and friends.

“I’m so glad it’s back,” she said. “I almost cried when they took it down.”

Levac said the rink will have to be relocated to the Vincent’s backyard next year. Otherwise it’s game over.

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