Winnipeg man opens massive backyard rink, snow bleachers

Winnipegger Bill Martens's labour of love — a massive outdoor backyard rink and bleachers made entirely of snow and ice — is ready to host hundreds of hockey fans and several charity games.

Winnipegger builds rink and bleachers with 3,000 hand-cut blocks of snow

A Winnipeg man's labour of love -- a massive outdoor rink in his backyard -- has officially open, ready to host hundreds of hockey fans and several charity games. 1:57

Winnipegger Bill Martens's labour of love — a massive outdoor backyard rink and bleachers made entirely of snow and ice — is ready to host hundreds of hockey fans and several charity games.

Martens has spent weeks building the outdoor ice surface, along with the bleachers and "boards" made of thousands of snow blocks he cut by hand.

I could just tackle the world, you know.— Bill Martens

"There's well over 3,000 blocks that have to be made…. They're all hand-cut, yeah, with a hand saw," he told CBC News Friday, hours before he officially opened his arena.

Last year, the 69-year-old built a snow fort and toboggan slide just for fun. Work on the ice rink began in December.

Martens was quick to shrug off the sheer size of his winter wonder, which can seat hundreds of people.

"If you look back centuries ago, what did they do in Egypt? They built pyramids — big stones … a couple of thousand pounds," he said.

'The Queen' and her entourage arrive at Bill Martens's backyard hockey rink in Winnipeg's Charleswood neighbourhood on Friday evening. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)
"This is nothing compared to that."

Even more remarkable is Martens's successful battle with cancer, according to his wife, Grace, who said he was weak and critically ill five years ago.

"He was so, so sick for quite a while," she said.

"Then to see him like this? I can't even put it into words, what that does to you. It's really, really awesome."

On Friday, as he stood on the ice rink he built himself, Martens said, "Right now I'm just so thankful…. I feel really good. And I could just tackle the world, you know."

The hockey rink will help raise money for four children's charities. Canadian Tire has already signed on as a sponsor, donating at least $5,000.

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