one of those beautifully frigid winter nights that
inspire poets. The skies are clear and the light from the
moon illuminates the backyard. Fireplace smoke rises straight
into the air and hangs motionless over this suburban outpost.
It’s quiet, but for the cursing of one crazy hockey
father who’s discovering the true glory of the outdoor
trying to thread a nozzle onto his garden hose. Under the
warmth of the summer sun it’s an easy job. Now, in the
freezing cold with gloves under his big deerskin mitts, co-ordination
is harder to muster. It has taken him about five minutes to
get the hose out, and now this. Finally everything lines up
and the spout is connected. He hopes it isn’t an omen
on this brutally cold evening.
hardly move. He’s wearing long johns, blue jeans and
ski pants over his short stubby legs. His big winter parka
covers three layers of clothing. The hood with its fringe
of wolf fur is pulled tightly over his head creating a warm
tunnel between the outside world and his face. He has two
pairs of socks under his Kodiak boots.
ago this rubber hose contained enough water pressure that
it flung the nozzle out of his son’s hand, spraying
everyone. There’s no fear of that tonight –
summer’s strong spray is now winter’s weak dribble.
not altogether bad. His dad always told him not to
hurry the perfect rink, no matter how cold it gets, so Frank
moves methodically from one side to the other, slowly spreading
a thin layer of water on the snow. It’s boring work
that forces him to move in slow halting steps. Not much chance
to move around and get some heat into his toes.
told him one good thing about making an outdoor rink is that
the beer is always cold. Nice notion, except tonight everything
liquid is ice. The same friend went to a local hardware store
to buy a rink in a bag. He’s inside a warm, comfortable
house watching the Flames play the Oilers. Frank remains true
to his dad’s old-fashioned method of rink-building.
No plastic ice here, just water on snow, frozen snowbanks
for boards, and boots for goal posts
accomplished so far doesn’t look like much. Every tiny
mark in the snow is now encased in ice. There are rough, rigid
edges everywhere. He doesn’t remember his childhood
rink ever looking like this. Not even his enthusiastic hockey-playing
daughters would be able to handle this ice.
hand, which is wrapped around the nozzle, is almost motionless
with the cold. He tries to move the hose over to his other
hand and sees his mitt is encased in ice, locking it in place.
He remembers the nozzle leaks, not a good thing in freezing
skin tight gloves under his mitts to defeat the cold
isn’t working. He takes his fingers out of the end of
the mitt and slowly folds them into a ball for a moment, then
moves them up and down. The mitt remains on his hand. The
hose stays frozen in place and Frank continues to flood the
a pass and then lugs the hose back to the beginning and starts
over. This time he can see encouraging results. The extra
water runs into the crevasses and the harsh edges are slowly
rounded off. Parts of the ice are smooth enough for the girls
to begin skating in the morning. It’ll be rough, but
their skate blades will help flatten the rough sections.
finishes this thicker layer and calls it a night. He drags
the hose into the garage and uses a hammer to break the ice
that held his mitt in place. By morning the hose will have
at least partially thawed. A few hours on the hot air vent
will bring his mitt back to life.
into the house and strips off his outer layer of clothes and
drops them on the floor of the laundry room. He props his
pants in the corner -- they stand straight as if he’s
still wearing them. It reminds him of his parents’ workpants
hanging stiff on the clothesline in the middle of winter.
feels as rigid as those clothes; he’s numb
with cold. He staggers into the living room and turns on the
TV. He finds the remote on the floor and searches for the
hockey game, but first discovers one of those stations that
provide all weather all day long. The perky presenter, who
looks like she’s just out of journalism school from
the nearby community college, is talking about his region.
all be happy to know this deep freeze is about to end,”
she says brightly. “We’re looking at a daytime
high of five degrees later in the week. So hold on and we’ll
soon be back to some great winter weather.”
gets off the couch and shuffles to the kitchen, opens the
fridge and reaches for a beer. He twists off the cap and takes
a swig. He puts the bottle on the counter and slowly returns
to the laundry room where he picks up the clothes he just
threw on the floor and whips them into the dryer.
“great winter weather” will make it impossible
for his kids to enjoy his outdoor masterpiece for long, so
he’d better get as much done tonight as he can. He has
memories to keep alive — and to pass on.
up in Saskatoon and going to the local outdoor rink in the
late '60s will always be in my mind.
a father of two girls and living in Pitt Meadows, B.C., this
last winter cold snap in January got the better of me. I promptly
took the hose out and began to create an outdoor rink for
my girls to skate and play hockey on; as my wonderful wife
looked on she thought I was from another planet ... there
I was, standing on my home-made ice rink wearing my rubber
boots, long johns and jacket with mitts at three in the morning!
with the frozen ice results, I went to bed. When I awoke,
I went outside only to find slush with a typical B.C. rainfall.
Needless to say, we were very disappointed, so we gathered
our skates and went to the local indoor rink for a fun afternoon.
some time in the future I'll take my family back to the frozen
land of winter to experience the wonders of an outdoor rink
with the cold prairie wind blowing in one's face and the sound
of the skate blades cutting the rough ice on the slough. Only
then will the real feeling of an out door rink last in our
memories for years to come.
& C. McLaren
I was growing up I never had a decent backyard rink. Me and
my father would make one every now and then but it would never
last, it was too cold, so if you tried to stop the ice would
crack. But we always had the pond, or as we called it, the
frog pond, because we would catch frogs there in the summer.
was great, playing hockey with my friends, my dad, and my
cousins. Sometimes now me and my friends will hop on our ski-doos
and go to a place known as the parie.
the people of Stephenville Crossing, this is a place where
my dad and his brothers and friends would play. Today I'm
a teenager but I'm still in love with the sport of hockey.
really enjoyed your story, It was great. We also have a backyard
rink that is awesome. It is a lot of work getting it started,
but once the base is done, it is just a quick flood at night.
The work is sure worth it when you see how much the kids enjoy
the rink and how their skating improves. The old traditional
Canadian backyard rink: kids are outside and getting excercise
and having a blast. All the work pays off in the end. Anyhow,