For Wayne Buttle, building and operating the Ivor MacDonald Memorial Arena was about children.
Buttle says making sure kids have a place to play hockey and other sports has meant more than anything to him in his more than 40 years of service to the rink and the communities it serves.
“The most important point is the kids playing – rich, poor, whatever,” he said. “They have to be accepted. I believe in children and equality is the most important part.
Buttle was honored for those contributions last Saturday at an open house in the rink’s mezzanine.
“I was surprised there were so many people,” he said. “It was excellent.”
He was presented with a personal plaque which reads “on behalf of the residents of the Municipality of Pictou County on his retirement as Warden of the Ivor MacDonald Memorial Arena, and in recognition of his 44 years of dedicated service at the arena and the communities of East Pictou.
Another plaque was presented to permanently occupy the arena.
Designing an arena in Trenton in 1972 was not easy, Buttle said, but it was necessary so that children in East Pictou had the same opportunity as others in Pictou County to play hockey, as well as to other sports that have established themselves and developed there. like figure skating and ringette.
He said the youngsters couldn’t get ice time in New Glasgow and later were given several hours a week for a small fee to play in Trenton.
The process of building the arena at Thorburn included the formation of the District 13 Planning Commission.
“It was a challenge,” he said.
He remembers asking a bank manager for a $50,000 loan. The bank manager asked him to find 35 people who would donate $1,000 each to accompany him.
“We overcame that and he gave us the loan,” he said. “For a lot of people, $1,000 was a lot.”
Giving young people the opportunity to play hockey was a philosophy everyone shared, Buttle said.
“We always said that from then on, no child would be turned away,” he said. “Everyone should have the chance to participate.
Buttle said he admires the way women’s sports have evolved, from girls involved in figure skating and ringette to the rising profile of women’s hockey.
“I think it’s great that they’ve finally been accepted into the sport,” he said.
Several milestones have helped improve the fortunes of the arena. One of them is to increase oil heating by building two wood furnaces to reduce costs.
“I did a lot of research before buying the wood furnace,” he says. “When we can get wood without burning oil, that’s pretty good. Everything worked.
Buttle was among those who custom-cut the wood for the oven.
“It wasn’t so bad for me because I grew up doing it,” he said. “We did it all the time. In addition, it allowed me to stay in shape.
Buttle also praised those involved in the campaign to get a new Zamboni through the NHL Players’ Association to clean the ice.
“It was something,” he said. “What they did was absolutely fabulous.”
Two youngsters who later helped the arena run stand out for Buttle. One of them is his son, Edwin, who took over from his father as arena manager in 2021-22. The other is Randy Palmer who became an area councilor.
“Randy was involved for a long time,” he said. “He always wanted to work for the good of people. He was great.
“Edwin was a maintenance engineer for the (Aberdeen) hospital. He is interested in the rink. Edwin was who I was fighting for in 1972 so he could play hockey. I never even thought that wanted to become rink manager.
Palmer expressed his gratitude for Buttle’s work and his son’s decision to succeed him as rink manager.
“I don’t know where the rink would be without Wayne,” he said. “You couldn’t ask anyone to do the same for the rink. He has done so much to keep the installation up to date.
“It’s good to see Edwin step in,” he added. “It was a learning curve for him. You have to plan ahead, but he did a good job last season and he will do a good job in the future.
Palmer said it’s only right for him to help with rink operations now after the benefits he got from it as a youth.
“Growing up the rink was a big part of me and it became a big part of my adult life,” he said. “I wanted to give it back to him.”
Buttle said COVID restrictions have impacted use of the rink, but he hopes it will continue to be a hub of activity in East Pictou for years to come.
“It was different,” he said. “The canteen has closed. The pop machine has shut down. You lose revenue and people had to come and clean up and we lost the men’s league, but we got help in different ways from the province and the municipality. I hope he will continue and always be part of the community.