Charlottetown's Eastlink Centre needs $400K in upgrades to improve player safety

The City of Charlottetown is going to have to spend an estimated $400,000 dollars for upgrades to the hockey arena at the Eastlink Centre.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, or QMJHL, says the changes need to be completed by May 2021 or the Charlottetown Islanders franchise could be suspended.

The league's arenas will need a type of glass and boards that have more flexibility than older models.

"The main reason, the number one reason is player safety," said Gilles Courteau, commissioner of the QMJHL.

"The board and glass is what we call the flex board and glass so when there's a body check, as you can see during an NHL game, the boards flex."

'Like a brick wall'

The current boards are the original ones installed in 1991.

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The new flexible boards and glass would be similar to what is being used by the NHL.

"When you go into a rink that's got hard boards and glass that doesn't shake a little bit, it makes it a lot harder on the players because you are going into something like a brick wall," said Craig Foster, president of operations with the Islanders.

"By going to something like this, it's going to make it a lot easier for the players and long term, all the different ... groups that use the rink here in Charlottetown will notice the difference."

Foster said the newer boards will also be lighter and easier for staff to move and will be similar to what was installed at Credit Union Place in Summerside, P.E.I.

'No problem' says mayor

Charlottetown Mayor Philip Brown said the city will be waiting for a funding request to come from the board of directors at Eastlink Centre but expects to work with them to make the changes.

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"It's all about mitigating or reducing concussions," said Brown. "And that for us is no problem because safety, player safety, is first and foremost with the city and with any operation we have with the city."

Any proposed multi-use sports entertainment facility in Charlottetown is not off the books, he said, but couldn't be completed to meet the requirements set out by the QMJHL league before the 2021 deadline.

Brown said the city's current priority is replacing community rinks in Charlottetown, Cody Banks Arena and Simmons.

Survey of arenas underway

The Canadian Hockey League decided four years ago to make the changes to arena requirements.

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The process for the franchises in the QMJHL was adopted by the board of governors last October. The Western Hockey League has 22 arenas up to par while the Ontario Hockey League is in the second year of the process.

Courteau said if an arena is not upgraded by the deadline, that franchise could be suspended from the league.

He said a survey of the league's arenas is underway and they should have a report in the next two months to assess what the arenas need to upgrade.

Randy McAndrew/CBC

They are also asking the facilities to improve lighting over arenas.

The lighting changes are designed to improve viewing quality for fans and for broadcast purposes.

Courteau said he believes most of the arenas will need to improve the boards and glass, but some will already be up to par for lighting.

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