Shortly before the worst winter in recent memory decided to befall this part of the world, I decided to build a little rink in the backyard. And when I say little, I mean little.
What I decided to do, in fact, was simply take our four-year old 18-foot diameter Intex steel-frame pool, which had decidedly reached the end of its useful summer life (though I received some resistance to this fact from the Devil) and reduce its height from 4 ft to about 6 inches all around. Then I would simply refill it with water and wait. At 18 feet in diameter (about the same as a faceoff circle), the most “hockey” one could realistically play would be some fancy stickhandling ala Patrick Kane or perpetual crossovers, which could quickly lead to dizziness, vomiting and perhaps even blackouts. I know because I sometimes have my players skate around a circle between drills at the Devil’s hockey practices and it’s never well received. Back at the rink to be, for those who follow regularly, you realize I am the father of two now mature teenagers aged 18 and 16 years respectively, the former of whom, doesn’t even reside in the family home anymore. I am sure Momma and the Devil were asking themselves why I was even bothering with this whimsical project. But it just seemed like the right thing to do at the time. If I built it, surely someone would come and skate on it.
At the time, I regarded myself something of a genius, a veritable ice making MacGyver (who knew such rare footage existed) as I deftly made my way around the pool-turned-giant-ice-cube tray with my handy Exacto knife. I wondered if I should make a YouTube video to share my ingenious invention with other space-restricted hockey dads or perhaps even erstwhile used steel-frame pool salesmen. Having set the trap, all I needed to do now was wait for Mr. Freeze to arrive so I could begin the process of refilling the converted leisure vessel one last time. The aforementioned Freeze and his cousin Jack (Frost that is) showed up about a week before Christmas much to my delight. However, I was immediately presented with a dilemma as I hadn’t yet considered, which water source would be best suited to supply the critical ingredient. My first ill-conceived plan was to attach a garden hose to the outside faucet, which surely wouldn’t freeze that quick at barely sub-zero temperatures. After struggling mightily just to turn the metal tap the faucet produced barely a trickle of my much needed ice juice and so a secondary source would need to be procured. Momma was none too pleased to see me stretching the now snow-covered hose through our kitchen, down the main hall and into the laundry room where I determined the next best solution resided. A couple of minutes later I was in business, hastily filling what I began to realize was a less than level container. I soldiered on and put the base layer down knowing the frosty cousins were forecast to be in town for a few days. Sure enough, just before Christmas and in sync with da Boy’s arrival home for a three week rest from Uni, I had fully constructed a nice “little” rink. Delight returned via social media a couple of days later when I saw da Boy announce that he and the Devil were actually on the ice working on their stickhandling. This was quickly tempered by the report of a broken fence board courtesy of a puck having been shot at it. Ahhh, fence boards are easy enough to replace. Collateral damage from being a hockey dad.
I arrived home to see the rink littered with pucks, sticks and even pylons. A bottle of gatorade was half buried in the snow next to a small lawn chair. It might not be big, but this is how I like to see hockey I said to myself. Over the next few days, da Boy was back out on the wee rink doing his best Patrick Kane impression with bits of Brian Bollig’s not so mad stick skills mixed in.
Even the poochie liked the new backyard addition, though she felt the snow had been cleared especially for her so she could do her business right in the middle of my personal shrine to the game. Damned dog.
Here we are a few weeks later. Da Boy’s headed back to school. The Devil has school, a full slate of her own hockey and a buncha other teenage-type priorities. So the wee rink hasn’t really been used much of late and probably won’t be anytime soon. And yet, after each snowfall, of which there have been several, I find myself drawn out with a shovel to uncover the slick surface beneath. I’ve even peered out our 2nd floor bathroom window to see the frozen circle bathed in moonlight just before I hit the hay and thought about grabbing my skates to go do a couple of “laps”. Then, as I look down I can vaguely see da Boy frantically holding onto a chair for dear life, but suddenly, steadily, victoriously, making his way across the ice. Beside him I see a miniature Devil lying on her back doing snow angels in her hockey gear and grinning ear-to-ear in behind her cage as her small, pink, round glasses fog up again. Hell, I can almost see myself shooting a puck across an ice-covered farmers field next to our house in Manitoba and then chasing it for what seemed at the time like forever, only to turn around and shoot it back in the other direction. Maybe that’s why I built the little rink…so I could glance back to these moments frozen in my mind. Cue the scene from the movie…”Hey Dad, wanna go for a skate?” These little figments are welcome to drop by and skate in my backyard any time they like. Nope, it’s not much…just enough to draw out a few fond memories, making it all worth the effort. Next year’s version might even be bigger and better. Keep an eye out for the DIY YouTube video.