You’re reading this on a hockey-themed website that focuses on the outdoor game, so it’s safe to say you have some level of interest in the sport of hockey and its under-the-open-sky cousin. But I know where you’re at mentally: you like the thought of a rink in your yard, but you’re scared, apprehensive, and unsure where to start. You’ve googled around, you’re completely saturated with information, and the article you just read contradicts the other article you read yesterday. You’re starting to talk yourself into not doing it at all because it seems so daunting.
Take a breath. Bookmark this site. And relax.
We can help.
But before I direct you to our comprehensive “How-To” section, I want to reignite your passion for backyard rinkbuilding, the very reason why you started googling in the first place. Building a rink can be trying at times, and you’ll need a vat of hockey passion from which to draw from when times get tough. Here are some droplets to get you started.
REASON 1 — IT’S NOT AS HARD OR EXPENSIVE AS YOU THINK
Can you spend a full weekend building a rink? Maybe. Can you drop four grand on a 50×100 thermoplastic setup? Sure. Do you have to do either of these things? Absolutely not.
My first backyard rink came in south of $300, and when I experienced the awesomeness of owning my own rink and how painless it ended up being, I wrote a post about it and subsequently launched this website. I had pored through the mailing list archives, the old magazine articles, and the instructional websites, and settled on what I figured was the cheapest, simplest method for building a rink. I did not say “best”, because “best” is subjective and mostly unimportant. I had backyard ice to use whenever I wanted, and all it cost was a couple hundred bucks and 6 hours over Thanksgiving weekend.
My suggestion: look up at our menu bar, under the ‘Backyard Rinks’ section, and read through our How-To articles. The most important ones will be the one to check slope and the one on how to build a rink. Those two posts alone should get you up and running this year with minimal issues. To help with the inevitable wrinkles, we’ve launched the Backyard-Hockey.com Forums, a free community full of new folks like you and seasoned vets willing to share what they’ve learned along the way. Think of it as a backyard rink concierge service, all for free.
See? Not expensive, not difficult, and a community of people ready to answer your questions. Cross this excuse off your list.
REASON 2 — YOU’LL BE MANUFACTURING MAGIC & MEMORIES
The great Jack Falla once said:
“I wish you all well with your rinks. Keep them going as long as you can. Everyone who skates on those rinks will remember it. And will remember you. I suppose in that way a rink confers a kind of immortality.”
While you may question the connection between immortality and a puddle of frozen water, the statement is endorsed simply by reading what his son, Brian, wrote on this blog recently:
“As tweenies and teenies, my sister and I weren’t the greatest of companions around the dinner table every night and conversational topics were sparse. But we could talk about the rink. It was our own conversational safe haven, and possibly the lone passion shared by all four of us. And get the four of us out on the rink, be it skating or shoveling out after another winter storm, and we came together with a closeness that was absent from other arenas. Conversations were easier, jokes funnier, rebukes less stinging, personal questions less probing (and if you really took offense, you could always thrown the next puck in the offender’s corner and settle it the old fashioned way). The rink was, in our house at least, the only thing that could effectively bridge the parent-child/generational chasm.”
If that’s not hardened proof that a rink is a special place, I’m not sure what else I can say. Sure, it’s a bunch of wood and brackets and a liner and water. But put it all together and add some cold temps, and you’ve built a magical entity whose presence will enhance your entire existence, now and forever.
REASON 3 — IT’S A SECRET SKILL-BUILDER
Let’s face it: being good at something is more fun than not being good. That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy something the first time out, but at least for me, I get more enjoyment out of something I can do well over something I struggle with. I think it’s human nature. Which is why something neat will happen when you put in a rink: you and your children will get better at skating, shooting, stickhandling, and playing the game of hockey. The best part? You won’t even realize it’s happening.
Once you or your kids have the fundamentals and techniques, your growth will come from repetition and time-on-ice. Both of these things are hard to come by in an era of $200-per-hour ice slots, shared practices, and once-per-week games. But those limitations are gone when the ice is yours to own. You will be ASTONISHED at the amount of progress a four-year-old will make from November to February. The same kids who require a milk crate to stand up in early December will be whizzing around by Valentine’s Day, all as a result of free, unstructured ice time. The repetition builds skill, which builds confidence, which helps usher in a genuine love for the activity.
Don’t take this to mean that every kid who skates on a backyard rink will make it to the show. Or that in order to help Little Johnny make the Elite Select Tier 1 Travel team, you need to make him do suicides out back before he eats breakfast. That’s not what I’m inferring. But it is no coincidence that thousands of college and professional hockey players spent their weekend hours playing on a backyard rink, unknowingly developing skills at the same time.
REASON 4 — YOU’LL BE THE HERO OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD
It seems that we as a culture have become infinitely more private. Every day the kids go to school, the parents head off to work, and when everyone returns home, the cars are hastily parked inside closed garage doors, the shades on the windows drawn shut. If you’re lucky, you might get a wave from another parent as you both sit in your warm cars at the bus stop. But if there’s one thing that breaks through the privacy wall with the folks on your street, it’s a backyard rink.
A backyard rink is still a novelty for most of the universe, and unless you have the good fortune to live near other hockeyphiles such as yourself, the presence of an ice rink in your yard is an interesting topic of conversation, and if you can excuse the manufactured pun, a perfect ice-breaker. A backyard rink lends itself to neighborhood parties more than any pool or Weber grill ever has, and is the best excuse I’ve ever come up with to throw a party in the frigidness of January (at least since they moved the Super Bowl to early February). For neighbors and friends of yours who aren’t married to the sport like many of us are, a simple skate around a backyard rink is equal parts wondrous and thrilling, and the perfect alternative to another winter day spent indoors.
So build it, and they will come. And they usually bring cookies.
REASON 5 — IT’S CHEAPER THAN A THERAPIST
Whether we want to admit it or not, pretty much every living, breathing adult could use some time on the leather couch. We’re all inundated with stressors: bills, deadlines, work projects, bus schedules, student loan payments. All of these things swirl around our heads like our own personal tornado of yuck, constantly injecting itself into our thought process throughout the day. But there’s a simple, albeit temporary, solution: put on your skates or boots, grab your stick or hose, and step on the ice.
Many of my world’s ills have been cured (or at least temporarily forgotten) on my backyard rink. Once the kids are asleep and I’m standing at center ice in the dead of night, letting water flow freely from the hose and painting the ice smooth again, it’s easy to forget about paying Sallie Mae or the work presentation at 9am the next morning. I stare at the trees as they reflect the halogen light back at me, I listen to them creak eerily in the breeze, and I take in a deep breath of frozen air. It injects new energy into what can be a relentless and tiring life.
On weekend days, two hours on the rink will do as much good for your mood and your body as any dose of Prozac, your scorched throat a welcome reminder of the crisp winter air and the laughter you’ve shared with your children. Family two-on-twos will leave you soaked in sweat, exhausted from exertion, and 10,000 miles away from your Blackberry or Outlook task list. Sure, these things never go away for good, but a mental vacation is never as sweet as it is when accompanied by a stick, a puck, and a sheet of ice.
Regroup time. Forget everything you’ve read about plywood lengths and drywall screws and grade stakes and liner thickness. Poof — gone. Remember why you started reading about rinks in the first place, about the memories and the skill-building and the mental relief and the winter get-togethers. Those will all be yours, and they will be wonderful. Because you’re building a rink. You’re re-energized, you’re focused, and you’re going to do it. And you will not regret it.
Readers: did I miss any reasons? Post yours in the comments below.
Don’t forget to check out our How-To articles and join the Backyard-Hockey.com Forums to ask any questions you might have. We exist to make your life easier and to get you to experience the culture we love, so please don’t hesitate to reach out!