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We’re Writing A Backyard Rink Book!

Well, I guess I just gave it away now, didn’t I. Forgive me for being a little excited.

Ever since I started this blog and began adding how-to articles for the beginning rinkbuilder, I had my eyes set on some sort of book. Up until this past spring, I always figured it would be some sort of homegrown e-book, something that would incorporate all of our articles into one tidy package, which we could sell on the site for a small fee. Like many of my ideas, I sat on it and never really acted on the idea.

Then an unsolicited email I received in February reignited those plans and then some. The email was from a conceptual book agent at Hollan Publishing, a MA-based company who circumvents the standard publishing process by coming up with book ideas first and then soliciting writers to execute them. The idea they pitched to me, as you can imagine, was a book about building a backyard ice rink. After visiting the site and seeing some of the content we’d already created, they reached out to me to see if I’d be interested.

I can’t recall if I simply replied “OH MY GOD HELL YES!”, but I might as well have.

What followed was a bit of a back and forth about content, and layout, and photography, and the all-important proposal. Hollan’s model is to work with potential authors to put together a proposal, which is then listed for sale. We solidified the proposal in late April, and waited. Fortunately, we didn’t wait long. In June, Countryman Press (VT, USA) offered to buy the proposal and work with me on the production of the book. By July 4th, the contract was signed. We’re writing a book, currently titled ‘BUILD A BACKYARD ICE RINK’.


I’m equal parts tickled and terrified. At this point, aside from the incredible Jack Falla books we’ve all read and cherished, there is no current book in existence that teaches folks how to build a backyard rink. So while the spotlight is narrow, I still feel its burn and want to make sure I do the genre justice and give folks the information they need to experience a successful rink season (or 20). But I’m also excited to have the opportunity to expand our reach from the web to the print universe, where we can hopefully turn more families on to the awesomeness of the backyard rink lifestyle.

This isn’t just about me or this site. Not by a long shot. I started writing for a nonexistent audience, but we’ve built a wonderful readership here on the blog, and also on our social networks and Backyard-Hockey.com Forums. Every email I get, every picture of a smiling kid, every “thanks for the instructions” post on our Facebook page fuels this site and helps affirm that we’re making a difference and helping people out. So I want to share this experience with you, every step of the way. We’ll be sharing excerpts of the book along the way, as well as showing exclusive images as we work through the process.

In addition (and I’m super excited about this part) we’ll be including an entire gallery devoted to YOUR rinks in the book. This site wouldn’t be here without you (and if the site wasn’t here, this book deal wouldn’t have been possible), so I want to give you all a chance to share your work of art with the world. I can’t promise we’ll be able to include all of them, but I’d love to be able to share as many of your creations as possible, giving potential readers of the book the idea that while we’re going to include step-by-step instructions, there are an infinite number of ways a rink can end up. So stay tuned for all of that.

Right now, my first manuscript is due to the publisher by March. So if the content on this site is a bit slow (as it has been), you’ll know why. The eventual target release date is around this time next year. There’s a lot of work to be done between now and then, and I’m going to need help from many of you along the way. And, of course, I’ll need each of you to buy 25 copies when it goes live next year :). But until then, share this post, spread the word, let your local cold-weather small bookseller know, and keep coming back to this site for updates.

You guys are all awesome. I’m looking forward to sharing our lifestyle, our genre, our passion with a greater audience, next year and beyond.

-Joe Proulx
Founder, Backyard-Hockey.com and (omg) Author-In-Training

Spring Cleaning For Winter?

Hey everyone! The kids are out of school and summer is here, which means it’s time to grab a beer, sit by the pool, and stare out at your rink site to figure out how you can make it even better next year. Fortunately, our buddy Mike over at Iron Sleek is sharing with us some ideas you might want to think about as you prep for the upcoming season. Lots of great ideas here. Be sure to check out the Iron Sleek site too, as they have added lots of new products (several of which we’ll share with you soon)! -Joe

isrinkHey Rinkers!

Although summer is here and flowers are blooming, it’s not too soon to start thinking about your rink for the upcoming season. A backyard rink is a progression of small improvements and Spring/Summer is the best time to improve the family rink. Our customer’s rink featured in the picture above took a few years of modifications and yard improvements to get to where it is today. Even, after many years of enhancing my own yard, I thought I was finally done for 2014-2015 season. Every year I learn more and every year I realize I AM NOT DONE! My next “rink prep” project is underway. I’m digging a trench to run wires for extra lighting (night vision for me is on the decline)! While doing the dig, I also plan to level the low section of my yard so next season’s rink is 5 feet wider. That will give me better ice quality and wider shooting angles so I can score on my much improved little skaters. I can’t wait! If you’re anything like me, your backyard ice has become a passion and you still reminisce about the awesome-ness ofyour 2013-14 winter rink!

Don’t let this season go by without prepping for next winter’s rink! When fall comes around, it will be too late. Here are a few things to consider this spring and summer:

Electricity and Lighting
Are you frustrated with your lighting situation? Not enough light, too many extension cords, etc. Consider running power to a convenient spot to service your rink lights. Maybe plant a tree to prop up a light? No tree? No problem! See if the Iron Sleek Post Kit can work for you! We put it on special for you with a free shipping coupon “springfree”.

Should you improve the grade? Is it just one corner that complicates things? I started with 17 inches of pitch and committed to fixing a corner. Eventually, I had landscapers get the level to 8 inches. Not bad! Are you putting in a pool or doing some other type of construction? If the equipment is already on site, have the excavators fix your rink area (I have a customer doing this exact thing! -JP). We put in a batting cage for our girls and relocated the dirt from the dig to a deep rink corner. Always think “rink”!

Dangerous Tree Branches
Take a look above your rink area. Are there dead tree limbs? I’m serious about this one. We had a customer in Toronto end up with enormous tree limbs in his rink (see the incredible photos on Facebook here!) What a trooper! Bob salvaged the rink and still skated for a month after the disaster. Pretty sure he owes his brother-in-law a cold one! Have those loose limbs cut down now so they don’t end up in your rink next season.

The Shed
If you are building a shed, strategically place it so it’s convenient to the rink. Could the shed double as a warming hut or hold a fridge for your frosty beverages? How about your resurfacer, shovels, sticks, pucks, and net?

It’s unavoidable…you must resurface your rink regularly. Make it easy on yourself! Is your water supply far from the rink? Consider running a spigot closer and with a hot water line. We plumbed our spigot for both hot and cold. It’s great for slip and slides in the summer and is ice smoothing in the winter. Want the ultimate slip and slide? Lay down an Iron Sleek liner, add some baby shampoo, and get the camera ready!

You want to expand but that would put you on the pavers or on your concrete patio. Don’t let that hold you back! The Iron Sleek Hard Court Bracket makes expansion onto hard surface a reality. Need a good reason get rid of that dying tree? Time to cut that tree out of your rink’s way? It will also make for great firewood this coming winter!

Time for some seating benches or a fire pit? Plan these yard features to adapt to the backyard rink. It may not be something you think of in year one, but as you think about making your rink experience better, more seating and a nice warm fire to drink warm up next to is a must!

Relocate your Rink
Did last year’s site pose too many challenges? Start planning a new site and keep the key rink elements in mind: size, shade, water availability, power/lights and pitch.

Sports Courts
If you are putting in an outdoor sports court this summer, give us a call and I’ll help you figure your rink into the picture. Hard surface or sport court rinks post unique challenges to the rinkbuilders, but Iron Sleek has solutions to help you out!

I hope these pointers stir up your creativity and get you to start planning for the 2014-15 rink. You’re a rinker and rinkers always “think rink”!

Look for loyalty discounts and new product releases from Iron Sleek™in the coming months! For now, we have the “springfree” coupon which will get you free shipping on components and we have the lighting kit price slashed.

Michael Barbanente
Principal at Outdoor Rinks by Iron Sleek

My name is Mike Barbanente. First of all, I am a father of 2 and I have committed myself to help making the little time I have with my kids as incredible and memorable as possible. I have shared my passion of family, sports, and engineering with you through our company, Outdoor Rinks by Iron Sleek. Iron Sleek is a one stop shop for outdoor ice rink hardware, ice rink liners, rink accessories, and we also offer hockey board options. We ship our easy to use Iron Sleek products to 29 States in the US and 8 different provinces in Canada.

Be sure to like us on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Iron-Sleek/392397737480859

This post contains affiliate links. See Backyard-Hockey.com’s Affiliate Link Disclosure here.

How To Stack and Store Your Nicerink Rink Parts

We’ve built north of 50 Nicerinks in the New England area in the past few years wearing our Elite Backyard Rinks hats. And while we can throw together a rink in short order, I’ll admit, an efficient offseason storage solution for Nicerink brackets and boards eluded me until this season. Before this year, I’d put the boards in one stack, the brackets in another jumbled pile (or try to fit them into a box), and call it a day. We began offering storage this year, and with several customers taking us up on the offer, it was about time I figured out how best to store the parts in a safe and sturdy way that minimized the overall footprint of the parts. And I think I may have succeeded.

This method utilizes the Nicerink board’s built-in notches and holes, which allow the boards to stack nicely. Only this method also incorporates the Nicerink brackets into the stack. The end result is that you should be able to store all of your boards and brackets in a single tower that’s the same 18″x4′ footprint as a single board, which is great for folks who store in a small shed or cramped garage (which, let’s be honest, is nearly all of us).

To start, make sure all of your brackets and boards are dry. If necessary, tilt the boards to drain them and leave them out a day or two so the insides aren’t holding any water. Once you’ve determined where your stack will go, put about 1/3 of your boards down on the ground. Since I was storing several rinks, I put them on a large pallet that I had left over from the fall’s deliveries. Check Craigslist’s free section if you’d like to nab one local to you.

Once you have a third of your boards down, start layering in your brackets. You’ll need to be a bit delicate here to make sure they stack, but it’s not hard. In order to allow for more boards to be stacked on top of the brackets, lay them out in this pattern:


(BTW, all credit goes to whoever at Nicerink put together the Nicerink In A Box kits, as this is how the brackets are stacked inside those boxes.)

You should be able to carefully stack two rows of brackets (for a total of 10) using this pattern. Now it’s time for another 1/3 of your boards, followed by a couple more layers of brackets, etc. Using this pattern, I was able to fit three entire Nicerink systems, boards and brackets, onto a single large pallet (4′x6′). Two of the rinks were fit into single towers, and one large (40×60) rink was split into two towers.

Now here’s the important final step: while the boards are notched and sit nicely on top of one another, the brackets can move around if bumped and bring your whole setup crashing to the ground. So I bought an inexpensive ($18, found in the moving/packing section) roll of plastic wrap with a handle at my local hardware store and wrapped the whole thing up. It’ll be even sturdier if you can wrap it around something immovable (a post in your garage…a beam under your deck…a young, patient sibling…etc).




As for larger items like bumper caps or kickplates, these are a bit harder. Bumper caps can be cut into 4′ lengths and stacked on top of your boards and brackets, or left as 8′ lengths and stored in garage or shed rafters (as shown recently on Nicerink’s FB page). Kickplates…well, if you have an idea for those, let me know in the comments.

But hopefully this helps you make the most of your storage space, keeping your Nicerink parts clean and safely stored in the offseason.

Do you have an innovative way to store your rink parts? Post it in the comments!

Enter the realtor.com Faceoff, Win a Trip to San Jose to Watch the Sharks!

I’m no Dionne Warwick, but I know the way to San Jose: it’s through a new partnership we’ve formed with the folks from realtor.com.

A few weeks back, they reached out to us to help promote a contest they’re hosting alongside the San Jose Sharks. The premise is simple and the prize is pretty darn incredible, valued at north of $2500. Let’s start with that:

  • Tickets to see the San Jose Sharks in person vs the Capitals on 3/22/2014
  • Airfare to San Jose
  • Two nights accommodations
  • A trip to the practice facility
  • A behind-the-scenes tour of the stadium
  • Locker room access
  • And a meet & greet with the Sharks players
  • Do I have your attention yet? Because as much as those of us in the ‘backyard rink belt’ (read: cold places) convince ourselves we love the frigid temps, who could say no to a weekend out west in the warmth and comfort of the California sunshine? Not I.

    “But what do I need to do in order to enter this contest?”

    I thought you’d never ask. It’s pretty simple, really.

    Starting now and ending on March 13th at 11:59pm, head over to realtor.com/faceoff.

    Once there, you’ll need to answer six photo-based questions. But don’t worry, there’s no math. An example is “Which would you miss more on a road trip”, with your responses being either a palatial bedroom nobody reading this can fathom or a kitchen the size of my entire neighborhood. Click one to choose, then share the photo on Facebook or Pinterest, and BOOM, there’s one entry for you. Answer six of these and you’ll have six entries into the contest. Filling out a contact form gets you an additional entry for a total of seven chances (and, if you’d rather not share any photos, you can just fill out the form for a singular entry).

    A random drawing will take place on March 14th, and the winner will be on a plane due west a week later, hours away from staring at Joe Thornton’s elbow pads and watching Thomas Hertl work on embarrassing d-men at practice. 10 secondary prizes will be given out as well, consisting of five signed Sharks’ jerseys and 5 signed Sharks’ pucks.

    There is some fine print: the contest is only open to residents of the lower 48 states, aged 18 or above at the time of entry. Sorry, Canada. Your gold medal should be enough anyways. For the full official rules, full of beautiful and flowing legalese, visit this page.

    To help get the word out, the Sharks and realtor.com have also given Backyard-Hockey.com a $75 NHL.com gift card to give away. All you need to do is share our post on Twitter or Facebook, then comment below that you’ve done so, and we’ll give away the gift card to a random commenter on Friday, March 7th.

    So share this post, then hit up realtor.com and enter to win the trip. And in case you’re curious, your friendly backyard rink writer CAN fit into a standard checked suitcase. I’m sure you were worried about that.

    Full disclosure: when we signed on with realtor.com to promote this contest, we became a realtor.com Featured Contributor. This mean we’re compensated for our help in promoting this contest. This partnership also gives us the ability to give away prizes like the $75 NHL.com gift card to one of our readers, which we consider a good thing.

    Do I Need Backyard Rink Insurance?

    Like peanut butter and jelly.

    Like peanut butter and jelly.

    It’s a question that pops up now and again, sometimes on the forums, other times in person with rinkbuilding friends or potential EBR customers.

    “What happens if someone gets badly hurt? What if the liner rips and I flood my neighbor’s finished basement? What if my kid rips a shot through the picture window and right into my prized Picasso?”

    All valid questions, and until now, questions I never really had a good answer to. I’d tell them that I had never heard of someone suing over a rink injury, and that for the most part, I considered rinks akin to swimming pools and swingsets, neither of which require specialized insurance. But in the back of my mind, I really didn’t know.

    Curious whether or not I was alone, I posed two questions on our Facebook page back in January: do you have extra insurance to cover your rink, and does your insurance company know about your rink? The responses were overwhelmingly lopsided.

    “I don’t have extra insurance for a rink. Never really thought about it.”

    “No additional insurance and no they don’t know about it. Never really thought to give them a call.”

    “No and no.”

    “Nope and never looked into it. I have not informed my insurance company that I have a rink.”

    In all, of 24 replies, only four mentioned obtaining additional insurance to cover their rink.

    So I set off to find out what we should be doing, reaching out to nearly a dozen insurance agents and brokers in attempt to hear, from their perspective, what we rinkbuilders should do to protect ourselves. One of first agents to reply, as it turns out, is a local (NH) hockey legend. Rene LeClerc played high school hockey in Berlin NH, captained the then-named New Hampshire College hockey team for two seasons, and went on to become a D1 official and hockey coach, spending 11 years at the helm of Manchester HS Central and eight seasons at Southern NH University. He was inducted into the NH Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007. And, conveniently enough for us, he also runs his own State Farm insurance agency.

    His expertise in both realms cemented, I asked Rene the same two questions I asked on my Facebook page. He said that specific backyard rink insurance didn’t exist, but that there was another solution to put the rinkbuilder’s mind at ease.

    “I always recommend to clients that they should have a Personal Umbrella Liability Policy (PLUP), which will provide them with usually $1,000,000 of liability coverage over and above the coverage from their homeowner policy.”

    While you must request an additional PLUP, the policy actually sits on top of your existing auto and home insurance coverage and supplements it should you ever need the additional coverage. So let’s say someone is skating on your rink and seriously injures themselves because you had a ground stake sticking up or a piece of your boards weren’t installed correctly. While the act of skating carries with it an assumption of risk, you could be liable for damages due to due negligence. And if you’re sued, your normal homeowners’ insurance may not cover all the damages. Enter the Umbrella policy. Like any insurance, the hope is that you never need it, but fortunately, relative to other insurance products, it is very affordable.

    “The cost varies but a good example would be in the $150 to $300 range,” says LeClerc.

    Upon hearing this, I contacted my insurance rep. Sure enough, my homeowner’s insurance only covered up to $500,000 for liability. My auto policy covered the same amount. To increase these to $1mil would cost just $216 per year, or a mere $18 per month. I couldn’t say yes fast enough.

    And while I had my rep on the phone, I did something else I had never done before: I told him about the rink. And guess what? He didn’t care. He already knew about the swingset and swimming pool, and while he noted my policy, he said it wouldn’t impact rates and wouldn’t lead to widespread hysteria in his office and an immediate cancellation of my policy. I was relieved at his indifference.

    Mr LeClerc is the one who unknowingly urged me to spill the beans: “Insured’s should never withhold information as it relates to these things. The agent is there to counsel the insured to help protect what they have and if they fail to tell their agents it would not necessarily negate the policy but the coverage may be too little in the event of a major lawsuit.”

    Christopher Gouveia, VP of Charles River Insurance, agrees: “As far as risk of cancellation, although all homeowners’ applications inquire about swimming pools, none that I am aware of inquire about backyard rinks, which tells me that as of now they don’t consider them a factor when determining your insurability. I have never seen a homeowners’ policy cancelled for one, so call your agent and make sure your coverage aligns with your needs without the fear of being cancelled.”

    In other words, there’s nothing stopping you from hiding the rink from your insurance company. But wouldn’t you rather find out that you don’t have enough coverage for your rink (or that they won’t cover it at all) when you’re on the phone with them in June? Or when you’re staring at lawsuit paperwork in February and it’s too late? Some companies may frown upon things like rinks or trampolines (which insurance companies particularly despise), but again, weigh the risks of withholding information. Maybe they won’t cover your rink, and you’ll have to go through the hassle of having to switch to a company that will support you and your backyard recreation. But isn’t that preferable to rolling the dice with your rink-unaware insurer and hoping they’ll be there for you when the crap hits the fan?

    In the end, you need to do what’s best for your family and finances. If only your immediate family skates on your rink, you might be fine. If you’re hosting weekly neighborhood skating parties, you may want to check on your liability coverage. We rinkbuilders often love to go it alone, from the DIY nature of our rinks to the solo flooding sessions under the moonlight. But when it comes to keeping your family and property safe, an umbrella policy is a no-brainer. And heck, it’s cheaper than my liner.

    Full disclosure: my day job is in IT/Finance at a major insurance company, and I buy all my insurance products from them, but did not contact anyone at my company for this article.