Sutters help rebuild arena

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

For two years, the heart of Viking was reduced to a pile of ashes.

The beat will return this weekend to the home of hockey's first family -- the Sutters.

Viking's new hockey arena will be unveiled, with a celebration tonight and the official ribbon cutting tomorrow.

"Being right on the highway, it's the heartbeat in the winter time. To not have (a rink) would be devastating,"said Ron Sutter, one of six brothers to make it to the NHL from the town 140-km southeast of Edmonton.

The original Viking Carena -- to raise money for it in the early 1950s, a car was raffled off monthly -- burned down July 7, 2005. For the past two winters, children from Viking played in surrounding towns.

It became famous for being the launching point that sent six brothers -- Brian, Duane, Darryl, Brent, Rich and Ron -- to NHL glory.

The history is impossible to replace.

The building wasn't much easier.

A rink originally billed to cost $8 million saw that price tag rise to $13 million because of the province's booming economy.

Insurance covered the first $5 million and the rest has been raised -- although they're still around $2 million shy of covering the final bill.

The Carena will eventually also include a library, lounge, day care, workout room and running track.

All of the Sutter brothers -- especially Darryl, the Flames GM -- were involved in fundraising and with design ideas.

"It's just a matter of being persistent, sticking with it and knowing people. It just takes time, especially with a project this big," Ron Sutter said.

Is the thought the Sutters stepped in alongside George Ritchie and Garry Wolosinka, those who spearheaded the project, a surprise?

"That's the type of people they are,"said Ian Erickson, part of the arena's fundraising committee. "This is still home for them, and they're not going to let that go."

Now it's ready to host the next generation of youngsters with big-league dreams.

And ready to invigorate a town that struggled financially without it's all-important gathering point.

"Small-town Alberta, without a hockey arena, was pretty devastating. Most businesses estimated they were down 20 or 30% during hockey season," Erickson said. "From a parent's perspective, it was hard. There were a lot of parents who couldn't put their kids in hockey. We lost numbers because of that, and for the people who kept their kids in hockey, it was a pretty busy schedule -- to say the least."

It's been a tall order rebuilding a town's heart and soul, but well worth it. It's enough to even erase some of the pain of that fire.

"I couldn't believe it when it happened," Ron Sutter said. "There were a lot of great memories in that rink.

"But there will be a lot of great memories in this rink."


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