On any given Saturday night, the siren rings and the student section roars; the Skating Saints have won another game! Appleton Arena: a North Country gem that local Canton community members and students migrate to every Friday and Saturday night during the winter. But after the last puck is shot and the students and fans leave the rink cheering, “Here we go Saints!” as loudly as they can, it’s easy to assume that the arena is mostly silent until the following weekend.
What many may not know is that I spend every Sunday in that rink and hear a completely different set of cheers. At 2 p.m., groups of young Canton children run in the front doors, jump on the ice and come in to learn to skate. All bundled up in their ski pants and puffy jackets, the little kids march around the ice hoping to one day be like the big Saints hockey players they had watched the night before. Who teaches these adorable kids how to glide around so maybe one day they can be playing a game at Appleton? Me. I have been a figure skating coach for 6 years and have the wonderful opportunity of giving back to the community by sharing my passion of skating with these kids.
Once all the kids leave, the rink is silent once again. The arena seems still: no fans, no hockey players and no marching kids. At this moment I feel at home. The old wooden bleachers are empty and yet they hold so much history after being there for so many games, having seen the best and the worst of the Saints. The student section is bare, yet I can still envision the St. Lawrence flag waving during game time. I step on the ice and spin. When I stop spinning I look up and realize it’s still in the arena and yet the love for the game of hockey, the love of that arena, and the love for St. Lawrence fill up that empty space.
I have seen many rinks in my time and none of them compare to ours, not only because of Appleton’s character, but because of the people who make it the special place it is. Just like every spot on St. Lawrence’s campus, the experiences we have in Appleton have touched the many lives and give all Laurentians a memory to cherish. In those moments of silence you begin to notice even the smallest of details. Kevin and Bruce, two of the Zamboni drivers! There is never a moment that Kevin and Bruce aren’t smiling so big that they brighten the rink, whether it’s making sure the goals are in the right position for the next period or waving to the little kids as they clean the ice surface. Every part of Appleton is a true reflection of St. Lawrence.
Appleton Arena is not only a special place for our community and our hockey players, but also for me. My favorite part about any day is when I head over to skate. Appleton is a place where we are all able to come together for the things we love: St. Lawrence, our community, our personal and collective traditions and a good hockey game.
Next time you enter Appleton, take a moment for yourself. What sounds do you hear?