Red Lodge Ice Rink is ready to entertain and hold tournaments

It’s Twice As Nice With You On The Ice!!
Thursday, January 9, 2020
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Courtesy photos
Red Lodge Ice with the Winter Classic trophy 2018.

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Severin Simpson enjoying time on the ice in Red Lodge.

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Photo by Alastair Baker
Below, a group of children playing night ice hockey at Lions Park.

If you’ve driven by the ice rink in Lion’s Park in the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably noticed a flurry of activity.  In addition to residents and visitors out skating around or playing pick-up games of hockey, the Red Lodge Ice hockey programs and the Blades programs have begun for the season.  

The Blades program, which is affiliated with The Boys and Girls Club of Carbon County, offers affordable youth Learn-To-Skate, Advanced Figure Skating and Hockey Skills programs.  The programs have been expanding with each new season.  In the beginning, adult hockey enthusiasts of a wide range of ages and ability levels gathered for pick-up games.  Soon, a set game time of Saturday noon became the norm.  Some weeks just a handful of players making a go at a game, other times as many as 20 players show up.  

A few years ago, an additional pick-up game was organized for lower-level and newer players trying to get the hang of the game.  Several locals have taken up the call, donning hockey skates and grabbing a stick for the first time – or maybe not since childhood pond games.  This has further split off to include a game geared toward younger players who want to get their hands in the game, unaffiliated with the Blades program.  This fun night is for youth 8-15.  They must have helmets, sticks and skates to join the game on Mondays from 5 p.m. - 6 p.m.  

Four years ago, a group of hockey players, lead by Andy Simpson started the Red Lodge Winter Classic Hockey Tournament.  The word quickly spread through the hockey community and the 64 entries from all over Montana and even Wyoming were divided into 8 teams for the weekend.  Teams faced off against each other for three games on Friday night, Saturday morning and Saturday afternoon.  Then on Sunday morning teams were paired up for a fourth and final game based on standing so that a winner could hoist the homemade Classic Cup.  This event has grown to the point where this year the spots were filled entirely by previous participants, before the event even got advertised!  In addition to the local players, hockey enthusiasts from Billings and surrounding communities come to play, using the tournament as an opportunity to getaway to Red Lodge for the weekend, bringing their friends and families to cheer them on.  

The tournament is held on the second weekend in January, so be sure to stop by to catch the action on Jan. 10-12.  

New this year is the Red Lodge Town Series League.  Previously, a group of hockey players have been commuting from Red Lodge to Billings to play in the league at Centennial Arena.  While some Red Lodgians continue to make the drive to participate, Andy Simpson of Red Lodge Ice spearheaded an effort to start a local adult league this season.  Forty-eight players of all levels have signed up to form 6 teams for six weeks of league play.  Games are held on Thursday evenings from 6 p.m. - 9 p.m. through Feb. 7.

While it may appear that the ice rink appears magically in Lion’s Park each year around Christmas time, in truth a group of dedicated volunteers puts in countless hours to create this fun winter recreational opportunity for residents and visitors.  In the fall, many hands are needed to set up the structural boards in preparation for cold weather.  After that, the weather is monitored carefully for a span of days with cold temperatures and no snow.  At that time, the huge liner is spread out and the rink is filled with water.  Fingers are crossed for a good freeze!  Once the rink has solidified into skateable ice, an infinite number of volunteer hours go into maintaining the rink, including filling in cracks, scraping and shoveling off snow, and resurfacing the ice.  In the spring time, more volunteer hands are required to help take down the liner and boards and store them for the off-season.  Additionally, the liners and boards need to be replaced periodically.  Money raised from the hockey league and tournament entry fees, as well as the sponsors for those events, helps pay for maintenance and improvements 

“I am beyond thrilled at the increase in popularity of the Red Lodge Ice Rink.  It brings me so much joy to see it being used day in and day out.  Our group of volunteers at Red Lodge Ice put in tons of hours maintaining the rink and it all wouldn’t be possible without them.  2020 is going to be a great year for the rink!” says Andy Simpson of Red Lodge Ice.  Like so many great Red Lodge features and events, the ice rink and skating programs are clearly the product of a group of dedicated residents planting – and sowing and irrigating and fertilizing – the seeds, and then the community getting on board for the “harvesting.”

As more and more people use the rink, it requires more effort and more improvements on the part of Red Lodge Ice to keep up with the usage and grow the program.  Last year, with a grant and assistance from Beartooth Electric, lights were added to facilitate night-time usage.  This year, Andy Simpson applied for and received another grant through the Montana Department of Tourism.  This grant matches funds raised, so the grant will pay $2 for every $1 Red Lodge Ice raises, up to $34,000. This money is aimed at purchasing more substantial boards for the rink and more lights, as well as signage.  It’s an essential time for fundraising for the rink in order to get these matching funds.  Please help Red Lodge Ice achieve this important goal of raising the $17,000 needed to get the full matching funds by donating today. 

Red Lodge Ice is a volunteer-based organization with fiscal sponsorship through the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation.  Currently, the volunteer base is made up mostly of the hockey community.  If you are interested in getting involved, volunteering or donating money to maintaining and improving the rink, please go or find Red Lodge Ice on Facebook.  Donations can be sent to RL Ice, PO Box 2023, Red Lodge, MT 59068.


Submitted on behalf of the Red Lodge Ice by Kerri Wolfson