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The Backyard Rinc Song

I know what you’re thinking. It’s October, the leaves are falling, the nights are getting colder. It’s almost time to drag the boards out, you’re about to buy a liner, and you can’t wait to use that new homeboni you built. But there’s something amiss. You have all of your tools and rink parts, but something it missing. Then it hits you:

You don’t have an anthem.

Fret no more. Greg Michalski, a songwriter, rinkbuilder, and owner of Backyard Rinc, Chicago’s premiere all-purpose backyard rink installer, has you covered. Written by Michalski and recorded by Chicago’s own Thrift Store Heroes, “The Backyard Rinc Song” might just be the first ode to the fine art of rinkbuilding ever created.

Head over to Michalski’s website and have a listen. Heck, loop the song while you build your frame and you won’t have to wonder why all of your friends are drinking apple cider and carving Jack-o-lanterns with their kids while you pound rebar into your lawn with a sledgehammer. The image of the “3-year-old in double blades” will keep you going.

Great lyrics, great tune, and great time of year. Rinkbuilders, your anthem.

In Chicagoland and want a rink? Contact Michalski at greg@backyardrinc.com.

Tap on the pads to Michalski’s Boston-area counterpart, Alex Rogozenski of www.backyardice.com, for being the first to point me to this song on Twitter.

Pond Hockey Classic Unveils New Logo, Brings Home Hardware

September is not normally a time for pond hockey victories, but Scott Crowder and his team at Ekal Events are having quite the month.

Crowder, the driving force behind the wildly successful New England Pond Hockey Classic and the brand new Lake Champlain Pond Hockey Classic, started off last week by unveiling a new design that will be adapted to form each tournament’s logo. Scott explains the new design:

“We wanted to capture the essence of Pond Hockey with a simple and subtle logo that could be easily altered for our different events, the LCPHC and the NEPHC. Anyone who has ever played pond hockey has thrown the stick over their shoulder with the skates on the end and walked down to the rink. This is classic pond hockey and over the course of three months we were able to come up with a finished product. We had numerous versions of this logo, and went through many revisions, but we love the finished product and feel we have properly portrayed the sport of pond hockey with a simple but classic logo.

The logo was created through a collaborative effort between myself, graphic designer Projekt Grafik, and the official apparel provider of the PHC, Earthtec.”

As if that wasn’t big enough news, Crowder then spent this past Tuesday evening accepting the 2010 Lakes Region Tourism Award for his New England Pond Hockey Classic, which took place back in February. According to the Lakes Region Association website, the Award is given annually to an individual or company “that has made a difference during the past year to bring visitors into the Lakes Region and Central New Hampshire.” The Pond Hockey Classic served to bring hockey people together in a new and unique way and also helped visitors from around the region experience an area of the state that often sits dormant during the cold winter months — a concept true to the spirit of the Award and one that made Crowder a slam-dunk for this year’s presentation.

Pond hockey events may be a relatively new phenomenon to the area, but the NEPHC shows that not only can they be big wins for hockey-minded people, but that they can boost local economies, bring tourists to an area they might not otherwise visit, and foster a sense of community ownership. On behalf of everyone at Backyard-Hockey.com and all the players and fans who soaked in the NEPHC, congratulations to Scott and the Ekal team!

For more information on the tournaments, visit these pages: Website, Facebook, Twitter

Have You Seen Our Pond Hockey Tournament List?

Another month, another record. Buoyed by an unexpected glut of visitors from a link on Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, September is poised to destroy our previous one-month visitor and pageview totals. This is tremendously exciting and I’m humbled to the core, but I also want our new readers to recognize that there is much more to this site than the half-dozen posts on the main page.

One of the oldest, most popular, and fastest-growing parts of Backyard-Hockey.com is our North American Pond Hockey Tournament listing. My goal when I created the listing was twofold: I wanted hockey players and fans to have a central location to find information on every pond hockey tournament in existence, and I wanted to help these tournaments gain exposure and grow in their communities, thus giving pond hockey some mainstream traction. My site statistics coupled with feedback from tournament directors and hockey players alike indicate we’ve succeeded in that venture. So for those of you new to the site (or the RSS feed, or the e-mail list, or for our new Tweeps or Facebookers), take a look at the pond hockey list and see if there’s anything near you. Sign up, take in a game, get involved. You won’t be disappointed.

For you faithful readers and repeat visitors, please note the four sizable changes made to the listing this week:

  • The US Pond Hockey Championships have set a date. The tournament featured in the Pond Hockey documentary will host its 2011 tournament on January 21–23, 2011.
  • The dates for the first-ever Lake Champlain Pond Hockey Classic have been moved from February 25–27 to February 18–20, 2011.
  • The tentative dates that were listed for the Vermont Pond Hockey Championships have also changed. Instead of February, the event will now take place January 29–30, 2011.
  • We’ve also added a new event: the 2011 1883 Black Ice Pond Hockey Classic will take place in Concord, New Hampshire, January 28–30, 2011.

Pond hockey is growing very fast and new tournaments are sprouting up all over the place. You can help by spreading the word in your corner of the world by re-Tweeting this or sharing it on any of the social networks below. And as always, if you know of a tournament not listed, please let us know using our contact page.

Photo courtesy of betsyweber

NHL Slapshot Stick Accessory UPDATE

Miss my initial comments on the Wii NHL Slapshot hockey stick accessory? Catch them here.

Wow, what a week. After our original NHL Slapshot article was linked to from Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, tons of readers commented and e-mailed with some locations where the stick can be found. Unfortunately, none of the correspondence said “They’re available everywhere like every other Wii accessory, so don’t even worry about having to look too hard or call ahead,” and none of them were from EA Sports clarifying the mind-boggling decision to not release the official stick separately alongside the game on Day One. But that’s OK, because we have some great readers who added their two cents to the comment section of the original post or through our contact page. Here’s a summary:

  • Reader “Johngo Fett” wins the reader of the week title after pointing out the availability of an NHL Slapshot stick at Bestbuy.com. I pointed out that the image-less ad was a bit suspect, but Johngo ordered it and confirmed upon its arrival yesterday that it is indeed the official EA Sports NHL Slapshot stick. Johngo says: “Got my Best Buy Stick today – I don’t even need to take pictures, because it is the official stick. Looks like it’s produced by ‘Sakar International’ and ‘Vivitar,’ but it’s got the nice fancy EA Sports hologram, the game branding, etc.” Now, be warned: this does not mean that the stick is available in all Best Buy stores. As of last Wednesday, it wasn’t for sale at my local store in NH. But if you’re willing to wait for the stick to ship, then click here to order.
  • Someone using the moniker “EA Sports” points out that the stick is available in all US KMart stores. I have been unable to verify this, mainly because most of the KMart stores near me closed down years ago. Has anyone else been able to confirm this?
  • Another reader, Chris, comments that the stick is available at all US-based Toys “R” Us stores. There’s no way for me to verify that statement, and the stick is not available on its website, so best to call before venturing out to the land of screaming children and Legos. (Update – the stick is now available on their website, click here)

I won’t proclaim to have any insight on what it’s like to work for a video game producer like Electronic Arts. But I would like to think that the suits in that company would throw up in their mouths a little if they knew that their target demographic was having to read pond hockey blogs and Google for directions to KMart in order to play the game as it was designed. I would say it’s like a bizarro Where’s Waldo?, but at least with our striped friend, you know he’s SOMEWHERE on the page. These sticks are more like Carmen Sandiego.

And that stinks, because I really want to see this game succeed.  It would be great to see EA put out a Wii-based hockey game annually and integrate some of the features found in their flagship NHL 11 product, such as online play. But the fact that we’re even talking about how difficult it is to get a hold of extra sticks (for a system that thrives on multiplayer, party-esque use) does not bode well.

Surely we’re not the only ones who are annoyed, right? I would like to think that someone at EA is listening, and that I’ll get an e-mail full of retailer links momentarily. Then again, I have heard nothing that will convince me that they’re not off somewhere coordinating the rollout of their latest NBA game exclusively at Anchorage-area Baskin-Robbins. At any rate, stick around and I’ll keep you up to date as best I can.

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Reader Photos: Scott Millin

This week’s Reader Photos comes from friend, hockey dad, and rinkbuilder, Scott Millin. Scott, whose backyard fire was borne after reading Jack Falla’s Home Ice, is entering his fifth year on the Millin Four’Em. I’ve said before that I might be the only blogger whose readers are better writers than he is. Scott proves this with his entry:

When I used to ask my now 12 year old son, Danny what sport he liked to play the best, baseball or hockey?  He would always reply, “You can’t make me choose!”  Years later I still ask him the same question, but now Danny always replies, “Hockey” before I can finish the question. When it comes to choosing a photo to demonstrate how I feel about the game of hockey, I feel like using Danny’s old line: “You can’t make me choose!”  There are too many experiences, memories, and images that I have stored on my computer and in my brain, which I still pull out on occasion to review and remember.

However, there are a series of photos that I think best reflect how I feel about the game of hockey, and all were taken on the ice surface of my backyard rink, the Millin Four-em.   Unlike most hockey photos, these three photos are not action shots; instead they are staged and were taken over each of the last three winters.




The subjects are my son Danny and three of his closest friends and I think the pictures – both individually and collectively – reflect what I think are the most important take-a-ways from the game of hockey:

1)      Fun. Hockey is a game, and games are supposed to be fun.  Each picture was taken after endless hours of 2 on 2 hockey – free form, spontaneous, no parents to make rules kind of hockey.  When the boys are out there I make a point to throw open the window so that I can secretly watch and listen to them argue about the score (and settle it themselves), laugh with and at each other, improvise and invent, and break a sweat on a frigid winter day.  Danny’s youth hockey experience is full of structure and strategy, and that’s okay.  But on our rink those things take a back seat to fun. I never have to say “Say cheese!” when I take these pictures – they are all smiles.

2)      Friends. Often the people who play the game of hockey spend more time in the locker room laughing than they actually spend on the ice playing the game.  That doesn’t happen in many other sports.  In these three photos I see friendships that have grown as steady over the years as the boys themselves have.  I look at the oldest photo and can’t believe how little they look.  I look at the most recent one and can’t believe how old they look.  Where does our time go?  It’s so fleeting and soon these boys will be off on their own; driving, dating, and doing things I am not quite ready to accept but know are inevitable.  However, I hope (naively perhaps) they will still always come back to skate on the rink and will always remain friends.

3)      The Struggle. As all of us know, life ain’t easy…and neither is the game of hockey.  Success in both is measured and happens at a gradual pace, but if you work hard, push your own comfort zone, learn to play nicely with others, and stick with it you can become a better player and, I am convinced, a better person.  Hockey lends itself to many metaphors and to achieve and excel at both hockey and life is like having the stuffing right beside your mashed potatoes on your Thanksgiving plate (each one is good but together they are great).   The four boys in this picture all started playing together in the same In House (non-travel) program.  Over the years they have worked hard and turned themselves into better players and better people.  As parents, that’s the gravy on our stuffing and mashed potatoes.

When he is an old man like me, I hope Danny doesn’t look back and only remember the practices, conditioning drills, the wins or the losses, or even the goals he scored during his youth hockey career.  Those are all important experiences of course, but most of all I want him to remember the fun he had and the friends he made, and I also hope he continues to try to become a better player and a better person…well, by now I’m sure you get the picture.

I do get it. Because while the calendar may disagree, I feel like it wasn’t that long ago that I was the little kid in the giant helmet. Now I’m coming full circle, poised to become the dad in the window watching a new batch of giant helmets bobbing around the ice, slicing through puffs of warm breath in the cold air, and forming friendships and memories amidst squabbles over puck possession. Scott gives us all a glimpse into the journey that is watching your children grow, and reminds us all that the oft-difficult journey is a bit more palatable when shared in one’s own backyard.

Thanks Scott.

To read more about Scott and his rink, visit http://themillinfour-em.blogspot.com.  Scott also writes some incredible (non-hockey) fiction, but I’ll let him comment with that web address.

Have an image you’d like to share with the Backyard-Hockey community? Send it, and your narrative, to joe@backyard-hockey.com.