It has been well-documented that the four Staal brothers (that would be Eric, Marc, Jordan, and Jared, all of whom play in the NHL) spent a good chunk of their youth on their backyard rink in Thunder Bay, Ontario. NikeBauer did a great piece a few years ago, talking to the boys, their dad, and procuring some great video from their days in the backyard. If you haven’t seen the video, here it is:When the boys weren’t out scrapping on the family sheet, they were honing their study skills at the Thunder Bay Christian School, a small 125-student private school a few miles from their home. Though the school boasts a beautiful landscape complete with baseball fields, a glaring omission (even in hockey-thirsty Canada) was an outdoor rink. Knowing that the Staal boys had traded in their plywood backyard digs for 20,000-seat glory, the administration reached out to the family to see if their old backyard rink could be reassembled for use by the school’s students.
Bea Hayen, the school’s principal, says the idea was borne during a school booster club meeting. “They contacted the Staals, thinking that they had maybe some of the things left from their home rink, and maybe (we) could get that and set it up (here),” says Hayen. But the Staal boys took it a step further and paid for a $40,000 outdoor rink to be built at the school. The boys’ parents, Henry and Linda, joined the school for the ribbon-cutting ceremony this past January.
“They’ve actually been out here in the summer and looked at it and they’re pretty proud of it. And I’m sure as time goes on, there will be improvements being made by them,” said Henry.
And what do the students think? Seventh-grader Julia Himanen sums it up: “During class we could see them working, because we have windows, and so we would watch them making the rink and say, “Yes, it’s almost done!” she said. “They put a lot of effort into this hockey rink, and they did a really good job.”
The school plans to use the rink during recess, as well as making it a part of their gym class curriculum. Pond hockey during gym class? Man, I love Canada. They’ll also be re-introducing an old tradition at the school: skate and soup nights. Families in the community will be invited to come out for a few loops, after which they’ll retreat inside to enjoy a bowl of homemade soup.
And as for the Staal’s, I guess I’ll give them a pass the next time they beat up on my Bruins. Good for them for giving back to the community that helped raise them, and providing Thunder Bay’s kids with a chance to whirl around the ice like they did for so many years. The only thing better than the experience of outdoor skating is sharing it with others, something the Staal brothers just learned firsthand.
Information courtesy of GoDutch.com, oacs.org, and tbnewswatch.com.