Skaters and hockey players in Talkeetna and Willow are welcoming new ice rinks this winter.

The Mat-Su Borough spent $1.5 million from a 2016 voter-approved recreation bond to build two covered facilities.

While the borough owns the rinks, it's up to community members to care for the ice.

After a snow storm dumped several inches in Talkeetna, Jack MacDonald had his work cut out for him. 

He's maintained the town's only rink for about 25 years. On Thursday afternoon he shoveled snow into piles then used a front loader to plow it off the ice.

"The kids appreciate it. They always tell me, 'Thanks Jack, good job, nice ice,' so I take a lot of pride in it," MacDonald said.

Talkeetna named the hockey rink after Jack MacDonald for his 30 dedication to the hockey team.

This year there's a little less upkeep. The new roof doesn't keep out all of the snow, but MacDonald said it definitely helps.

"It's easier and I'm glad because I'm getting older," he laughed.

Talkeenta doesn't have a Zamboni, just a makeshift hot mop in a truck bed.

Jack MacDonald uses a pickup truck to hot mop Talkeetna's new rink.

It takes more than 45 minutes to fill the tank. Then MacDonald makes slow circles around the rink so the ice sets up just right.

He hopes the rink will get year-round use now that it's covered.

"In the summer, maybe tennis; we have a tennis net we can stretch across. You could have a flea market, a farmers market out here," he said.

The community named the rink after MacDonald to thank him for his dedication to Talkeetna hockey. The locker room is filled with memories from his past 30 years of coaching.

"All the years I coached at level four we made five championships and lost all five. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride," he said while looking through old team pictures.

The photos highlight the condition the rink used to be in.

This team photo from 1999 shows the condition the rink used to be in.



"These [boards] were like shooting a puck into a mattress, they were real old. You can see how beat up they are. Some of the chicken wire fencing we put up. But you know what, we didn't know any better," he said.

Now Talkeetna has its best rink in 30 years.

Hockey players hope the roof means more time playing on the ice.

"Because one time we had to spend the whole practice shoveling off the rink," said 10-year-old Sawyer Love.

Israel Mahay was on MacDonald's first hockey team. He grew up playing in Talkeetna and is now giving back to the community as a coach.

"This rink is awesome. When I started playing here in '89 the one end didn't even have boards," Mahay said, laughing.

The rink still needs a few finishing touches, like paint on the boards, but MacDonald said it's guaranteed to be well-used for generations to come.

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