You could hear the crisp sound of skates on ice, mixed with children’s voices and laughter, as a large crowd of residents turned out Sunday for the grand opening of Rockcliffe Park's new field house and much-improved ice rink.
“There are so few things that pull everyone together but it’s amazing what a rink will do,” Louise Malhotra, who sits on the board of the Rockcliffe Park Residents Association (RPRA), told OBJ.social. "We've had the ice open for about a week and, already, we've probably seen more action on this rink than all of last year combined."
She and her husband, Shawn Malhotra, COO of Claridge Homes, were key to creating the new community hub for the neighbourhood.
For years, Rockcliffe's rink has been loyally looked after by neighbourhood volunteers, dubbed The Rockcliffe Hosers. Canada’s most famous hosers, Bob and Doug McKenzie, introduced the term to our lexicon 40 years ago, but it originally came about when hockey was commonly played on frozen ponds and lakes. The losers of the hockey game had to hose down the surface to keep the area clean and smooth.
Cumulatively, there have been some 600 volunteers — mostly dads — who've maintained the local rink since the Hosers formed in 2001 under the leadership of Brian Montgomery, vice president and portfolio manager with RBC Wealth Management. Marc Theriault now holds the distinguished title of head Hoser.
“These are groups of five or six men who get off the couch at 9 p.m. on a freezing-cold February night,” Montgomery told the crowd. “They put on several layers, including snow pants, boot and gloves, to scrape and shovel. And that's just to get in the car."
It had been Montgomery's vision to build a proper rink and to add a year-round field house with change rooms and washrooms, but that was before his kids grew up and before he moved neighbourhoods. It then became the Malhotras who made the project their labour of love.
The Malhotras were also one of three families who financially backed the project. The other two families were: 1251 Capital Group co-CEO Mike Wilson and his wife Jacqui Wilson, and excelHR co-founder Kathryn Tremblay, whose contribution honours the memory of her late husband, Toni Guimaraes, 51, who passed away in 2016 from cancer. Interestingly, all three three families each have four kids.
The founding families helped to cut the ribbon, along with Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward Coun. Tobi Nussbaum, who was last week named as incoming chief executive of the National Capital Commission.
The seven-year project to build the field house and new rink was completed because of Shawn and Louise, the crowd heard.
“There are people who dream stuff up and there are people who get things done, and sometimes there are people who do both, and these two do both," he said.
“They have created something better, more functional, more beautiful than I think any of us back in the day imagined would happen. They committed their own money and they got others to commit. They got the trades and suppliers to contribute, and they got the city to get moving on it.
“When Shawn throws himself into a project, you need to just get out of the way.”
The project cost $1.5 million and also included work to improve the adjacent soccer field. The community raised $350,000 while $650,00 came from in-kind construction and consultant donations facilitated by Shawn and Claridge Homes. The project was also the recipient of a city matching program of up to $500,000.
The field house was designed by Ottawa-based architecture firm Linebox Studio. Owner and principal architect Andrew Reeves lives in the area with his young family. Representing Linebox at the opening was architectural designer Jelle De Roeck.
Attendees included Ottawa-Vanier Liberal MP Mona Fortier, Rideau-Vanier Ward Coun. Mathieu Fleury and area residents who've helped care for the rink over the years.