Backyard rinks are a favourite topic of mine. Almost everyone who has ever played hockey or lived in an area where winter produced temperatures cold enough to have outdoor ice will have stories of their own about them. This is my first post on this blog about outdoor rinks but it won’t likely be my last.
The picture below is of the backyard rink we had at our house when I was a kid. This rink was a beauty that my Dad first built when I was probably 12 or 13. I tried to find pictures of the first rink we had at a different house many years before but couldn’t find any. I was a wee lad when we had that rink and it was only a tiny pond compared to this one. Again, it deserves a post of its own so I’ll write that at some point in the future.
On this rink,you’ll notice the net looks a little odd. It’s because it was. Built of 2×4’s and chicken wire, it didn’t even last the winter. But It took a lot of shots before it fell. It seems that chicken wire is pretty inflexible and on a cold day, each shot seemed to bust at least one joint. Add up the shots (and those who’ve seen me shoot know these weren’t even hard shots) and by the end of the winter, it was a net full of holes.
Another wonderful attribute of this rink was that in the far corner (you can see it in the background of this picture), a purple rash would begin to appear in late January and grown into a massive purple blotch by early March as the snow receded. The culprit – a tree with black cherry-like berries that dropped its berries in the winter. As the sun grew warmer, these would melt into the ground on the high bank and drain into the ice. Ice wine anyone?
When you were a little kid, did you ever go to one of your Dad’s games? It might have been only pickup hockey or perhaps a shop-league game (as my Dad’s league was called) but I remember the experience of being allowed to go to the rink late at night to watch him play. This was a rare privilege only bestowed during Christmas break or some other such holiday where I didn’t have to get up for school the next morning for the old guys always played late at night.
Going to such a game was quite a thrill, almost carnaval-like. Hey, these guys were almost real hockey players! They skated faster than my buddies, shot way harder than my buddies and they were HUGE with their equipment on. The goalies always had monstrous pads and their blockers and trappers were massive old brown hunks of leather and tape that looked like they’d been used a long while.
After the game, it got even better if you were allowed to go into the dressing room – until you realized that in that dressing room were a bunch of stinking, sweaty, ugly old guys. Guys that swore and yelled at each other and ribbed each other and, did i mention, they really stunk?
Even today, I can remember the funny names from those trips I took to the rink with my dad. There was someone named Sully (pretty common in every game in Peterborough) who obviously had some dental challenges , a goalie named the Meathead and the organizer was a guy named Tuds.
There was always the question about whether I played hockey too, what position I played and whether I was as good as my old man. There was always someone who would chime in that I was probably faster than my old man even now, or could shoot harder, and while I was pretty impressed they might think that, I didn’t understand the laughter that seem to be directed at my dad for those comments.