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Marble sculpture adorns Alberta's first accessible outdoor rink in Calgary

A marble sculpture that took more than two years and 1,600 hours of work to complete is now adorning Alberta's first accessible outdoor rink.

The sculpture is called Creating a Champion and features a parent and child wearing skates and hockey equipment in front of a net.

And it's big.

Sculptor Bill Harvey started with a block of Vancouver Island marble weighing close to 10,000 kilograms and the process of chiseling it into a finished product saw more than half of the stone removed.

"It was a major accomplishment," said Harvey. "I was in a big shop up in Red Deer and after doing all of the cleanup, it was sitting there in the shop all on its own and I turned around to look at it and it was like, 'Wow, I did that,' … and it's a pretty big deal."

Harvey says he got the idea to work with stone after a 1973 visit to Rome.

"Michelangelo was just so unbelievable to do what he did with hammers and chisels," he said. "So what I did is, I said to myself, 'Well, what could I do with modern power tools?'"

He began working on the sculpture in 2019 and it took upward of 1,600 hours to complete. The piece was inspired by a Canadian hockey legend.

"I thought about Wayne Gretzky as a champion hockey player and the idea came to me that well, this is not Wayne Gretzky but it's the creation of a champion," he said. "And I thought to myself, I wonder how Walter Gretzky (thought) of Wayne Gretzky."

Andy Thiessen lives in Parkdale and is the volunteer operations manager at the rink, a fancy term for what he calls "a winter gardener" who watches water freeze. Thiessen saw Harvey's sculpture and thought it would be a good addition at the facility.

"I acquired the piece and then wanted to donate it to this project that I'm so passionately involved with," said Thiessen. "Now it sits here and it's got a little sign that says it was donated by my family and you know what, 30 years from now my kids can come back and see something that dad and grandpa was a part of and yeah, it's pretty cool."

The piece has been appraised at between $15,000 and $30,000.

Josephine Cameron is 11 years old and can't wait to skate on the new ice surface with her friends. She's impressed by the new sculpture and its title, Creating a Champion.

"I love it, it's awesome, it's really inspiring because it's like a boy and his dad learning how to skate," she said.

Cameron learned from Harvey how meticulous the work was on the piece to make it look realistic, like carving the hockey net.

"On each square took like 10 to 15 minutes and there's like hundreds of them," said Cameron.

John Butterwick is another volunteer and the accessible rink project manager. He says five years ago, Parkdale's old outdoor rink had to be closed because it was in bad shape.

"One of our first community engagement meetings, there was a question asked, will the rink be accessible and we thought, 'Wow, why aren't rinks accessible, who knows who's the best person to talk to about learning about this?'" he said.

The community then began consulting with the Sledge Hockey Association and players to come up with a design.

"What's amazing about this facility is that it is completely accessible, it is built for a sledge hockey standards and requirements," said Parkdale Community Association president Amanda Affonso.

"So we've got the clear boards, the wider gates, we've got the warming area so you can transition from your wheelchair to your sled and just having the accessible bathrooms close by and just the ease of access transitioning from outside of the rink to the refit is completely flush."

The grand opening of the new $1,700,000 facility takes place Jan. 29.

Learn more about Parkdale Community Association online. Top Stories

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