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The backyard rink — where it all started

Recently I read a hockey book in which backyard rinks featured quite prominently. Some had clearly defined boards and one even had an artificial ice-making unit! In contrast to this, the ones I made when our children were young were clearly unsophisticated, if not downright primitive.

I would first determine the area of the yard that I was going to use and then trample the snow until it was more or less level. Using a light flood I would build up the retaining border with slushy snow. This would be followed by several light floods until the whole area was sealed in a layer of ice. Any place where the water might escape could be sealed with slushy snow. Sometimes high places or ridges needed to be removed with an axe or shovel. After a few more floods a smooth surface would result and the boys could enjoy a skate before doing the afternoon chores.

When I first took our oldest son onto the ice to teach him to skate, he fell a number of times, causing him to protest, “I don’t want to learn to skate!” But he soon caught on and he became an accomplished hockey player and still plays recreationally into his 40s.

Usually I would also make curling rocks by cutting five-to six-inch slabs off a green 12-inch tree. To these slabs I would attach handles which I had cut with a sabre saw. It was all great fun while it lasted for soon the backyard rink was replaced by organized hockey and curling bonspiels which took them to heated competition and big city sheets of ice. I hope, however, that somewhere in their memories there is a place for the backyard rink.

– Neil Funk writes from Carman, Manitoba

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