What do you get when you cross a heating duct with roller skates – mobile warmth? Moving energy?
Pipe glider? Actually all of the above but not in the sense you would imagine.
In the middle of Minto Township, nestled in a back yard and tucked behind the trees along Line 10, are two oval tracks. One is flat cement, the other red pavement. A sign at the road reads “Canadian InLine Training Centre”.
Alex and Pam Perrie moved to Minto from Cambridge in 1992. Perrie worked in the Maintenance Department at Manulife Financial (Waterloo) in charge of heating and air conditioning, and continued until he established his own Harriston based business.
In 1973 Alex Perrie was part of the Canadian Roller Skating team headed for the World Championships in Argentina, but because of unrest there the U.S. held the competitions in New York.
Alex was a member of Canada’s first world’s team.
When the family relocated, the closest practice centre was Neustadt which had an indoor skating arena but they didn’t use it in winter. Perrie started an Inline Club called the Jammers and they used the arena year round. It was cold in the winter and the kids wore snowsuits.
There was still nothing available for the outside activity – nothing that is until the Perrie’s decided to build a track of their own.
Inline skating is big in Europe, New Zealand, South America, China and the U.S. but is just not as popular in Canada as the other countries.
Perrie had an irregular banked 200 meter track constructed in 1998 and by 2000 was able to hold the Canadian Nationals on it.
Originally the track was built for his four children. Pam reminisces how the girls first started on Fisher-Price skates as there just wasn’t the selection available like there is now. Paisley was so small there was only room for three tiny wheels on her boots.
Alex Perrie is both coach and referee. In 2006 he was world team coach in Korea, and again in Spain in 2008.
In 1999 he refereed the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg, and in 2002 he was in the black and white striped sweater at the World Championships in Belgium. He was so impressed with the track in Oostende, Belgium that during a rain delay he took pictures, measurements and site lines. Back home he met with local contractors and the next year the red oval was born.
The Perrie dream was that all four children would skate ……which they did. All four kids have held national titles, but only Alex himself, A.J. and now Paisley will have skated in the world championships. At 15, Paisley has continually set new records and in July swept the field for the junior ladies (ages 15-20) at the Canadian Inline Speed Skating Championships in Quebec. Her accomplishments there earned her a position on the three member Canadian team. That team will be headed to Italy in September for the 2012 World Championships.
Paisley and her coach dad will remain in Quebec so that she can train alongside other strong and competitive skaters to keep at her peak.
But that doesn’t leave the Harriston oval empty. Summer skating progams are run for area participants. This year the outlook was grim because coach and trainer Alex wasn’t going to be around much. However, there were three dedicated families, with eight youth among them, who decided to pull together and the ‘show must go on’. These families (Schill’s of Arthur, Wakeford’s of Palmerston, and Malott’s from Mt. Forest) have been active members for the last four years. They have continued to visit the track twice weekly all summer and encouraged their children to keep up their practices by organizing relays, time trials, and road runs.
Two years ago a shorter, 100 meter, cement oval was constructed. This is a flat track with hopes of converting the top to ice skating for off season cross training, but last winter wasn’t conducive to an outdoor rink.
The summer inline program runs Monday and Wednesday evenings 6-8 p.m. from May till September. The session begins with warm-up exercises. Most practices are done on the ovals, but some straight road runs of 4 and 8 km are done for marathon endurance. Free skating and time trials are done on the long oval and then the skaters take to the shorter cement track for games and relays. Juggling back and forth gets the inliners comfortable on both types of tracks. The Minto red oval is the only banked inline track in Canada so it’s not unusual for skaters from a Toronto or U.S. based club to come for practice.
Arthur area resident Bridget Schill says she loves inline for her kids. It means all four children are together at the same time doing the same thing. Unlike some other sports it’s relatively easy to get started. Head protection is required but most kids already have a bike helmet. After that comes elbow and knee pads plus wrist bands. Those usually come as a packaged set at either athletic or department stores. The inline skates are important, but good second hand ones are usually available. The wheel base is adjustable and can be lengthened to fit several boot sizes as the child grows. Just as on a vehicle, wheels should be rotated to prolong life. The rollers come in various sizes and are made of a hard, yet flexible polypropylene. There’s a rubber knob for a brake on the back of some skates. Professionals don’t rely on brakes, they stop by turning the boot sideways or gliding to a stop, toes pointed. Since the four wheels are in a line it allows for greater speed and increased maneuverability.
The inline summer will soon come to a close for the 2012 trainees. Alex has returned from Montreal periodically for advice and to catch up with some of his furnace and heating business. As the three families sit on the deck and watch their children on the track, they laugh as they discuss the progress the kids have made over the past four years. As a social group they’ve found new friends and become more self confident. It’s tremendous physical exercise and has really strengthened their legs. Inline is a great maintenance program for ringette, figure skating and hockey. The two Schill girls cross train by speed skating in Waterloo in the winter months.
For Pam Perrie, watching these eight youngsters, especially little Roslyn Schill, who went on the wheels at age 2, is just like watching her own daughters all over again. Maybe like the Perrie girls we’ll soon have more champion skaters in our neighborhood.