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Get Your Rink Pictures Into Our Book!

Finishing the build on my first-ever rink - November 2008.

Finishing the build on my first-ever rink – November 2008.

Remember when we told you last fall that we were writing a backyard rink book? Well, the manuscript is due in the next couple of weeks, and now we need to start thinking about the layout and visuals. That means we need your rink pictures!

For the most part, we’re looking for photos of your completed rink so that we can show readers (ie, prospective rinkbuilders) all the different flavors of backyard rink. There are plywood rinks, Nicerinks, framed-board rinks, full-board rinks, and everything in between…and we want to be able to inspire folks who pick up our book and drive home what we’ve always said — that there are as many ways to build a rink as there are rink builders.

We won’t be able to print every photo we get, but if you’d like to try getting your rink into our book, here’s what you have to do:

1 – Compose an email to joe@backyard-hockey.com.

2 – Put the hashtag #rinkbook in the subject line.

3 – Paste the following into the body of your email, and fill it out with your information:

Full Name:
Location (City, State, Country):
Rink Dimensions:
Materials Used (ie, ‘Plywood with wooden stakes’, ‘OSB with rebar’, ‘Full Nicerink’):

4 – Add in the following phrase at the bottom of your email:

“I give permission for Joe Proulx, Backyard-Hockey.com, and Countryman Press to use the attached photos in an upcoming backyard rink book. I am the sole owner of the attached photos, and I understand that I am due no compensation for the use of the attached photos.” (Sorry, I hate the legal stuff too).

5 – Attach no more than THREE photos to your email. What we’re really looking for are photos that show how the rinks are built…but if you have a cool picture of your kid, or a skating party you hosted, or something else you think we might like, feel free to include it.

The deadline to send in your photos is Tuesday, March 31st, so you have just over a week to pick your three photos and send ‘em in. Who knows…maybe you’ll end up being featured in our book! Good luck!

The Coolest Hockey Bedroom EVER – The DIY Hockey Helmet Lamp

The Coolest Hockey Bedroom EVER is a series of posts chronicling the transformation from a boring bedroom to a hockey heaven for my son. You can read about his dresser here, his locker here, his headboard here, his hockey stick hooks here, and his broken stick corner shelf here. Have an idea for the room? Comment below.

Hockey lamps are a little hard to come by. If you’re lucky you can find one online (like this generic one, or this one, or this interesting contraption), but they’re expensive and there’s not a lot to choose from. So in true cheapskate fashion, when it came time to add some more lighting to my son’s hockey-themed room, I built one myself for under $12.




Like many of my how-to posts, there is no single way to do this. The info below is how I did it, but feel free to let your own creativity run wild and tweak this DIY to suit your skillset, your available parts, and your imagination.

Also, before we begin, a quick warning. This DIY will deal a bit with electricity and may involve things like splicing wires, fiddling with light sockets, or replacing plugs. If you’re not comfortable with that, please don’t attempt this project. Also, we’re talking about building a lamp out of a plastic helmet. Make sure the bulbs you use don’t generate too much heat (so use compact fluorescent or LEDs), and always test the lamp for several hours before putting it in your kid’s room.

Step 1 – Assemble the parts

Before you begin, think about how you’ll want to put this lamp together. Amazon (and many hobby shops) sell lamp kits, and those should work well. Because I tend to wake up in the morning and say “I’m going to build a helmet lamp today”, I didn’t have the luxury of online ordering, so I grabbed an inexpensive lamp from my local department store.

Here's the cheapo lamp I purchased for $5.

Here’s the cheapo lamp I purchased for $5.

As for the helmet, I have quite a collection that we use when people come skate on our rink. That said, a handful of them are very old and not entirely safe to use, so I grabbed one of these for my project. Skate sales or craigslist is a good place to try if you don’t currently have an old helmet. Note that you will destroy this helmet as part of this project, and it will not be usable for protecting one’s melon when you’re done.

As for tools, you’ll want some electrical tools like a wire cutter and wire stripper, some electrical tape, a screwdriver of some sort and then a drill with drill bits.

Some of the tools you'll need.

Some of the tools you’ll need.

Step 2 – Prepare the lamp components

If you purchased a lamp kit, this step likely involves opening a box and laying the components on your work surface. Lamp kits typically include the light socket, some wiring, a way to attach a shade, and some other components.

But for me, this step involved disassembling the cheap table lamp I purchased. These inexpensive lamps are typically assembled not unlike a child would put together a macaroni necklace, with the cord being strung through the middle of each component. My lamp had a single nut under the base, and when that nut was unthreaded, all the components came apart.

Here's the nut that holds the entire lamp together. I removed mine with needle-nose pliers.

Here’s the nut that holds the entire lamp together. I removed mine with needle-nose pliers. And yes, apparently WalMart uses some sort of concrete as the base in their lamps. Who knew?

The challenge in using the ‘deconstruct an existing lamp’ approach is that your power cord is terminated on both ends – one end has the plug and the other end has the light socket. To take apart a lamp like this, you need to make a decision as to how you’ll want to put everything back together.

This shows the lamp when the nut was removed, but you can see how you can't remove all the components due to the socket on one end and the plug on the other.

This shows the lamp when the nut was removed, but you can see how you can’t remove all the components due to the socket on one end and the plug on the other.

You essentially have three options:

1 – If your lamp socket (the part where you screw in the bulb) allows you to remove the wiring with screws, then you can unscrew the wiring and pull the wiring through the components. Most cheap lamps (like the one I bought) have soldered wire connections and so this wasn’t an option for me.

2 – If you want a cleaner finished look, you can cut the wire closest to the plug and when you’re re-assembling the lamp, you can use one of these replacement plugs, like this one. Just make sure (a) that it is the correct size and type for your lamp and (b) that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing it.

3 – If you’re like me (entirely unprepared for the job and just trying to get it done before the kids get home from school), you can simply cut the wires somewhere in the middle and then re-attach them with a wire stripper and electrical tape as shown in this Youtube video. The first two options are preferable, but this one works too, and it’s what I did for my lamp.

One you’ve decided on an approach and have all of your lamp components laid out, move on to the next step.

Here's my lamp after I cut the power cord and got everything disconnected.

Here’s my lamp after I cut the power cord (visible in the top left) and got everything disconnected.

Step 3 – Destroying the helmet

Before I got to drilling holes in the helmet, I went through and pulled off any parts that (a) looked ugly or (b) I could use elsewhere. Things like chin straps, j-channels, ear pieces, cages, and screws don’t really add to the aesthetics of your lamp and can be used in your helmet repair kit (because you have one of those in your kid’s bag, right?). I also gave the helmet a quick wipe with a wet cloth and some Goo-Gone to get rid of some old sticker residue.

These are the parts I removed from the helmet. Some I kept, some I tossed.

These are the parts I removed from the helmet. Some I kept, some I tossed.

My helmet, mostly disassembled and cleaned.

My helmet, mostly disassembled and cleaned.

To complete this step, it was as simple as taking a knife and cutting out a section of padding on the inside of the helmet, and then drilling a hole in the top that would accept the lamp rod.

Here's the inside of the helmet before I cut away the padding.

Here’s the inside of the helmet before I cut away the padding.

And here's the helmet with the center piece of the padding cut away.

And here’s the helmet with the center piece of the padding cut away.

Line up your drill bit (make sure it's large enough so it'll accept the lamp rod/components) and go to town.

Line up your drill bit (make sure it’s large enough so it’ll accept the lamp rod/components) and go to town.

Step 4 – The Re-assembly

This is where you get to re-assemble your ‘macaroni necklace’ by putting your lamp components back onto the cord.

With the lamp reassembled through the hole in the helmet, you can see the original lamp components from the inside of the helmet.

With the lamp reassembled through the hole in the helmet, you can see the original lamp components from the inside of the helmet.

When I was putting mine back together, I did this step a few times to eventually get the look I was going for. Because the lamp I started with was so small (see ‘things I’d do differently’ below), if I put too many pieces of my lamp on the top of the helmet, then the base couldn’t reach the table to hold the lamp up (and I wanted the lamp base to be on the table versus having the helmet, which isn’t all that stable, to serve as the base).

So the way my helmet lamp ended up was that just the light socket and a couple washers are on the top of the helmet, while the rest of my original lamp (and the base piece) are inside the helmet. This way the helmet sits on the actual lamp base and is very stable.

You can see what I mean about using the lamp base to hold the entire unit upright.

You can see what I mean about using the lamp base to hold the entire unit upright.

And here’s my end result! I am planning on grabbing a couple helmet stickers from my son’s travel team to complete the custom look, and the lamp will live on his homework desk.

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What I’d do differently

Like any rushed DIY project, I had some “Aw, man!” moments when I was done. Learn from me.

1 – I wish I’d gotten a taller lamp. With the shade attached, the entire lamp looks too compressed and the helmet doesn’t really pop. Plus there was the aforementioned issue with the base not reaching the table when I first put it back together. A taller lamp, perhaps with more components, would give you more reassembly options.

2 – I wish I’d purchased a lamp that either had screw connections where the wire meets the socket, or had the foresight to purchase a replaceable plug. As it was, I rushed myself and now my cord has a bunch of electrical tape holding it together.

3 – I wish I’d gotten some cool helmet stickers before taking the photos so you could envision how awesome a gift this could be for a little hockey player. My lamp is pretty generic in the photos, but it really pops when you add your kids’ favorite team stickers to it.

Have any questions? Did you build one yourself? Share it in the comments and please share this post to Facebook and Pinterest!

The Falla Family Needs Your Help

5b8a91ca-8cbb-4275-8f8a-5d927dc047aaYou’ve probably never met Colin Falla. Colin’s a five-year-old boy who lives just west of Boston, and like most kids his age, he likes swimming, riding his bike, playing sports, and building Legos. If you happened to run into him, you’d see him playing with his little sister in the snow or bombing down his local rail trail with his parents. What you wouldn’t see, however, is that Colin was born with Cystic Fibrosis. You also wouldn’t know that Colin is the grandson of the late Jack Falla.

My short conversation with Jack, and how my life has materially changed since that conversation, is well-documented. When Jack responded to my first email to the Yahoo backyard rink mailing list, I was in. My first rink was built that fall. Within two years, this website was born, and seven years later, I own a backyard rink company that built its 80th rink this year after being launched in 2011. To say Jack helped change the course of my life would not be an overstatement.

Jack’s book Home Iceinspired many to build their first backyard rink. The children who grew up with those rinks, many now in high school and college, learned to shovel and snowblow and toe drag and cross-over on those rinks. Their families gathered around those rinks, sipping drinks over fire pits, sharing laughs and making memories. All because of a backyard rink, which was built because of a Jack Falla book.

There are journalists for ESPN and Sports Illustrated and every major newspaper around who have their jobs because Jack taught them to “play hurt” during early-morning classes at Boston University. His unique teaching style and magnetic personality drew in students and spit out professionals, and the sports information world is a better place because of it.

And Jack isn’t the only Falla changing lives. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing his son Brian for several years. A selfless stay-at-home dad (and one heck of a writer in his own right), Brian is always quick to help out when asked. I’m honored that he’s agreed to write the foreword to my upcoming rink book. And when I was raising money for BeatNB last summer and the Boston Kidney Walk in the fall, Brian donated to both causes.

The Fallas, all of them, are damn good people who have given, and continue to give, so much of themselves to our backyard rink community and beyond. I’m asking for your help in giving a little back to them.

Inspired by her son’s optimism despite daily respiratory treatments, a specialized diet, and the ever-present risk of bacterial infections in his lungs, Colin’s mom Kim will be running her first half marathon on May 9th of this year. She is running on behalf of the Boomer Esiason Foundation, which raises money as part of its mission to support research and implementation of innovative and effective treatments for CF.

Kim’s fundraising page can be found here. If you’ve ever read one of Jack’s books, I’m asking you to donate. If you communicated with him on the Yahoo mailing list, please donate. If you ever sat in one of Jack’s classes, please donate. If you know Brian from the mailing list and have enjoyed his helpful, witty insight, please donate. The Fallas have done so much for so many, and it’s not always easy to find a way to give back to folks like that. But this is one very simple way that can have a very big impact.

Colin may not grow up to be a published author, or a university professor, or a backyard rink dad. But given the family history, we can be certain he’ll grow up to be an incredible and selfless human being. And I think we can all step up to help someone like that.

You Know You’re A Backyard Rink Builder When…

You call it "snowblowing the rink". We rinkbuilders call it "date night".

You call it “snowblowing the rink”. We rinkbuilders call it “date night”.

We do lots of stuff on our Facebook page — we link to our posts, we share interesting links to other sites, we post products for sale…and of course, we engage our ever-growing and supportive readership.

Last week, we asked a simple question and elicited answers. As usual, they were insightful, funny, and interesting, and we’ve compiled them here for all to see. Have something to add? Throw it in the comments below. We’re an interesting breed, the backyard rink builder. Please don’t ever change.

YOU KNOW YOU’RE A BACKYARD RINK BUILDER WHEN…

“You use your garden house more in the winter than the rest of the year combined.” -MP

“You know the 10 day forecast better than you know your kids names…” -CM

“You don’t have time to clear the snow off the driveway because you’ve got to clean off the ice.” -CT

“You have to remove several dozen pucks from your yard before spreading fertilizer in the spring.” -JC

“Your basement looks like this.” -SM (Ed. note – good to see I’m doing it right -JP)

“You make it your one and only goal to get your yard as perfectly level as possible, even if that means blowing your shoulders out moving 2 dump truck loads of fill to do it.” -JT

“You’re the only one in the hose section of the local hardware store in the middle of January.” -KM

“Plywood is your boards and chicken wire is your glass.” -CR

“You’re sore all day at work because you worked all night on the ice so the kids can skate the next day.” -JJ

“That Behr exterior paint actually works at 35 degrees.” -SP

“You have an intense hatred for the combination of wind, pine needles and oak trees.” -LB

“You’re upset when the forecast call for consecutive days of above freezing temps in January and everyone else looks at you like you’re nuts.” -JM

“The kids get done skating at 1am and your anxiously waiting to resurface!” -JK

“You have a close relationship with a guy in Florida named “Captain Jay” and can debate the finer points of fishing nets with him.” -LB

“You’ve ever said the sentence, “Not tonight honey…I need to go resurface.”” -JP

Have another one? Have a favorite? Tell us in the comments below.

Choosing Hockey Equipment

Note: our buddy Nate from prostockhockey.com sent us over this piece about the best ways to break into what can be an expensive sport. Thanks Nate!

20150107_140809Shinny. Pond hockey. Backyard hockey.

If you’re fortunate enough to live on a lake or near a pond, or have invested in the proper backyard ice rink supplies to make your own skating surface, there’s no denying how enjoyable lacing up the skates outdoors can be. After all, that’s the origin of the game — and a special way to spend time honing skills and enjoying time with friends. But one thing that hockey players young and old must be aware of while playing on the outdoor rink or backyard pond is that safety rules must still be adhered to at all times.

Yes, hockey has a reputation for being an expensive sport. Aside from skates and sticks, there are helmets, pants, shoulder and shin pads and more that are required for use in organized play — and they all add up. Skating on the backyard rink is a little different, because there’s no governing body making sure you’re wearing the proper safety gear. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

It’s true that you can get away without some of the padding required in organized games (e.g. in a game of “shinny,” there’s the agreement between all players that they won’t raise pucks higher than the shins, so much of the above-the-waist padding can be shed), but here’s a look at some safety tips for skating on the outdoor rink:

Equipment for Outdoor Hockey

• The basics: Players skating outdoors will likely have at least hockey gloves and a helmet. Hockey gloves are essential because, even if the player isn’t wearing full gear, knowing how the stick feels with the gloves on is essential to having good hands on the ice. When buying hockey gloves, buying big with the intent to grow into them typically doesn’t apply. They’re a piece of equipment that needs to be sized properly at purchase, so puck-handling and grip won’t be affected. Helmets, on the other hand, are often purchased in larger sizes because most of today’s models are adjustable. For youth players, we always recommend a full-face shield on the helmet, too.

• Think used: There are ways to curb the costs of playing hockey while still getting a quality piece of equipment. That’s right — think used. Many hockey stores have a “used” division where gear is available at discounted prices. You can also bargain-shop by attending some of the manufacturer equipment sales, where older models are typically sold for lower prices to make way for new models. Talk to people that you know in the hockey community and see if they know of any good deals or of anyone who has old gear they’re looking to part with.

• Skates: Hockey skates are essential, whether you’re playing hockey on a team or just skating out on the backyard rink. A word of warning for the young hockey player — refrain from purchasing top-of-the-line skates during the prime growth and development years. That’s because young hockey players have a tendency to go through skates quickly as their feet grow during this period. So why pay top dollar for the best skate on the market, only to have outgrown it in nine months? This is another great example of where buying used can come in handy. If buying used isn’t your thing, opt for the good, not great, skate model that won’t break the bank, but will suffice for the young player.

So yes, while hockey is expensive, there are ways to cut costs and still get good value — whether your youngster is playing on an ice rink or in the backyard. It just takes the know-how to get the best bang for your buck.

About the author: Nate Puskaric is the Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey (prostockhockey.com), an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Michigan State. Nate is passionate about hockey and the Blackhawks and is an expert in hockey gear and equipment.