Former rink manager recalls time at Cahill Stadium
SUMMMERSIDE - For more than 24 years, Bennie Grady lived and breathed Cahill Stadium.
The former Summerside Aces captain began his career at Cahill looking after the gondola during hockey games in 1956, hired by former coach and rink manager, Charlie Hogan.
"Only people in immediate contact with the game were to be allowed in that box upstairs," said the former rink manager. "That was the rule."
In '57 he was hired full-time to make ice, learning the skill from master icemaker Matt Murphy.
"There was a series of eight pads going down the ice surface. One little orifice would get plugged and whole strip of the ice would be all wet," said Grady. "In the end, he showed me how to take the orifices out. But it was dangerous stuff. The ammonia would kill you just like that," he added, snapping his fingers.
Later, ice-making machines would make the job easier but having perfect ice was always top priority.
"The trick is not to have too much ice," explained Grady. "What you'd like to do is put down a half-inch of ice, paint it, put down a set of lines and put another half inch over. If you can keep it like that it costs less to freeze."
Grady would become assistant manager in the early '60s, a time when Cahill Stadium was a beehive of activity, especially during Lobster Carnival week.
"It was our Old Home Week," said Grady. "There were baseball tournaments and swimming tournaments, boat races. And the parade was as long as from here to Wellington."
A third of the ice pad was used for daily lobster suppers, where close to 1,400 would be served. Each evening Grady would tear down tables and chairs for nightly dances, throwing cornmeal on the floor so dancers could glide across the concrete.
During Lobster Carnival week Grady would put in more than 100 hours. But, he added, looking after Cahill wasn't a 9-5, 40-hour a week job.
"There wasn't much on the go I didn't know about," he said with a laugh.
Grady took over as manager in 1970, spending the next 12 years running Cahill and, after 1977, Steele Arena.
He saw many come through its doors, from hockey fans and players like Errol Thompson and Gerard 'Turk' Gallant to performers like April Wine, the Stampeders, Stompin' Tom, and Anne Murray.
In his spare time Grady would return to the rink, coaching minor hockey, helping develop Summerside's first hockey school and co-founding old timers' hockey.
In 1982 left Cahill behind but took with memories of watching the Aces take on the Boston Bruins; local boxing heroes battle in out in the ring; and Saturday night dances.
"It was a great place."