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Orr Becomes a Weed-Whacker

If those behind the idea of turning the arena in MacTier into a legal marijuana grow-op thought they had a fight on their hands before, No.  4 has just jumped over the boards.

Bobby Orr was famous for scoring big goals and, if necessary, dropping the gloves, too.

This time he’s prepared to do both.

In his more than half century of celebrity, Orr rarely speaks out or steps into controversy.

However, when it comes to closing down an arena and community centre on his home turf to rent out to a company so they can grow medicinal marijuana, it brings out the anger in the Hockey Hall of Famer.

When he first heard of it, the two-time Stanley Cup winner who also led Canada to the 1976 Canada Cup, thought somebody must be smoking something.

But it turns out, there really is a move to shut the MacTier Community Centre and lease the space out it to grow pot.

“Its outrageous,” Orr said in an exclusive interview.

Somebody must be smoking the strong stuff up there on Hwy.  69 if they thought they were going to sneak this one by without reaction.

But it seems, that is exactly what has happened.

And Monday at 9 a.m.  the council is expected to discuss a letter of understanding they have struck with the medical marijuana company Mettrum Ltd.

It will be a heated debate for the people who live there, some of whom have formed Save the Community Centre Committee led in part by Steven Schell.

Orr said to add his name to the cause.

“Shame, shame, shame.  Shame on those decision makers,” said the Boston Bruin’s legend and Canadian icon.  “What are they thinking?”

The whole thing is upsetting for the pride of Parry Sound, Ont.  since, although he grew up 20 minutes north, Orr considers himself hailing from MacTier too.

“I love MacTier.  I spent a lot of my youth there,” said Orr.  “My sister Penny married Ron Blanchard from MacTier.  These are very good people.”

The community centre was built in the 1970s and although Orr never played in it, he played baseball at the diamond nearby.  In fact he was on the 1964 MacTier Legionnaires championship team which is displayed in a picture in the arena.

Cheryl Ward, general manager of the Stockey Centre and Bobby Orr Hall of Fame, said Orr also played minor hockey on outdoor rinks in MacTier.

“Where would I be if not for the hockey rink,” asked Orr.  “Where would any Canadian kid be?”

The local connection aside, Orr said, he would have taken the rare approach of speaking out if this was being done in any Canadian arena.

“Does it seem right to you?” asked Orr.  “Who would close down a community centre to grow marijuana? Who would close a community centre down for any reason?”

Township of Georgian Bay Mayor Larry Braid told QMI Agency’s Roberta Bell “the annual cost of operating the community centre is about $250,000″ and it only “generates about $30,000 in revenue for the township.”

Orr said he had never heard of such an argument before in his decades around hockey.

“It doesn’t make enough money? Give me a break,” said Orr.  “Are these community arenas supposed to make money? When did they ever make money? That’s not what they are for.”

And the one in MacTier is so vital to the community, the irony is it was there 300 of the 800 residents gathered last week for a meeting with the company about this proposal.

Many stormed out in disgust.

Orr said he understands how they felt and agrees with them wholeheartedly.

“They are going to haul the marijuana out of the old arena right past the kids in the school across the street and right through the downtown?” asked Orr.

“It’s disgraceful.  I can’t believe this.  It’s a community centre.  A community place.  They have weddings there.  Seniors gather there and play cards.  There are birthday parties, funerals.  I just don’t understand this.”

Braid told QMI Agency this new operation could create 35 jobs and provide a better return on investment in the ledger book.

“But where are the kids going to play hockey and figure skate?” asked Orr.  “They just put money into this arena last year to fix it up and now the kids will have to drive to Midland 40 minutes away and the seniors will have nowhere to go.”

Others Orr has talked to about this have nothing against the company or growing pot for medical use but wonder “is this the only place in the Georgian Bay region where they could put it?”

The hockey legend said his involvement in this fight will continue when he comes up for his annual visit this summer.  “This is just not right,” said Orr.

Time will tell how it turns out but history shows when Bobby Orr is in the game, his team usually wins.

Source: Intelligencer, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013, The Belleville Intelligencer
Author: Joe Warmington

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