Well, it’s that time of year again, when a special breed of people finally get ready for what they have been waiting for since spring. It’s the start of the Outdoor rink season, and I know all the backyard rink enthusiasts are excited. Just by going by the posts on social media, many folks have started their builds, and some people, like a few of us fortunate Canadians have already been skating and using the outdoor rink. Yes, it seems winter has come early this year for us up here, and it’s given us an early start to the outdoor skating season. I have a seen a few that have been caught off guard and are still assembling their rink set up, battling with an early snowfall and the cold weather.
For me, I get really excited seeing the pictures and hearing about all the rink builds going on. There’s a sense of enthusiasm shared among us, and really, it can become contagious. Some people might think we are strange and not all together at times. I mean, who in their right mind considers spending countless hours in the cold, dark nights, playing with water in sub-freezing temperatures, “fun”? Well, I know I do, and many others as well. And why do we do it? There are probably many reasons, but for me, I do it for my son and his friends and I know the impact it will have on his future. To quote a tag line from a well-known outdoor rink supply company, “Where #FrozenMemories are made”
You see, I grew up in this northern Alberta town and still live here. This is a place where the winters are long, dark and cold. In fact, by mid-November, there is usually snow on the ground, it’s already dark by 5pm and winters can easily last 6 months of the year. So you learn to embrace the winters and make the best of it. Back in the late 70’s or maybe it was even 1980, we didn’t have computer games and all the electronic entertainment we have now. I think maybe we had PONG, but that got pretty boring after a while. You can only watch that square circle bounce between lines on a 19 inch black and white TV for so long. We also had Lego’s, but you need a break from that as well. Outdoors is where we would spend most of our time. Winter or summer, it didn’t matter, my friends and I would spend hours at a time. Ahh, the good ol’ days. Anyhow, my dad did something that year for us. It was the only time he did something like this as well. He made us a Backyard Rink! (Well, more like a frozen sheet of ice) I remember him out there in the cold, spraying and hosing down moms vegetable garden to make us a skating rink. Mind you, it was only about 6’ x 8’ in size. But as a 7 year old kid, it seemed pretty big. I can remember how excited we were and couldn’t wait until it was ready. Many a day he spent spraying and layering the ice. There was no fancy technology back then. No rink boards. No liner. No lights. Just pack the snow and mist the water and let nature do the rest. The interesting thing is, I don’t know where my dad got the idea to do this project, and it was very unlike him. We, my brother and I, did not play hockey or any organized sports. We didn’t even really know how to skate. (I was the kid hanging on the board and walking around the rink on the school gym class to the arena) Heck, I don’t even think we owned a pair of skates, only those double bladed “bob skates” you strap to your boots.
Dad wasn’t able to Google how to make a backyard rink or search the online forums for help. And to this day, I have no idea what gave him the idea to even do an outdoor rink. He passed away a number of years ago, so I cannot even ask him. And he never had the chance to know about my rink building experience and passion in the last few years. I can only assume that maybe he got the idea from a co-worker or read an article in the newspaper. But for whatever the reason, that small patch of rough, bumpy ice that was supposed to be a skating rink, but ended up more of a winter slip n slide, some 35 years later had a lasting impact on me. And in turn, it is making an impact on other. When I mention rink building being contagious, I can’t keep track of the number of people asking how to build one, or if I can help, or being told I have inspired them. When I talk about making lasting memories, it’s not just the skating; it’s the construction, the time spent with family and friends that will also be remembered. I know my son will remember these moments for a lifetime, just as I have. And who knows what impact that will have on others. I never imagined that I would construct an award winning backyardrink on the very same spot where my dad built that first little patch of rink so many years ago. (More about that in the next blog) But every year at this time, I am reminded of what he did for us, and that was the start of our #FrozenMemories that is now going on 3 generations.
If you are thinking about building a backyardrink, but not sure what to do, I encourage you to go for it. There are a lot of helpful articles on this website and other resources to learn from. Reach out on social media to the #ODR community, and start making Frozen Memories of your own. Leave your questions or comments below and continue the discussion. Until next time…. Happy rink building, and Happy skating.
Proud dad and BackYardRink builder/enthusiast