Hockey-loving Canadians build elaborate backyard rinks

But all you need is ice, says one expert

Hockey is woven into the fabric of life in Canada and parts of the northern United States. When it gets cold, players young and old hit the ice, whenever and wherever they can find it.

Sometimes, finding the ice — at least enough ice for a hockey game — is the hard part. With so many players and organized teams playing and practicing, getting time at the local rink can be tricky.

So rather than sit idly by when it’s cold outside, diehards often take matters into their own gloves, creating rinks in their backyards. These range from the corner-of-the-yard, shovel-and-hose variety to elaborate sheets of ice with full boards and refrigeration systems.

VIDEO: An itty-bitty front-yard rink waiting for you

Whatever route they take, it’s ice, and that’s all they need.

“We always wanted to play, so the backyard rinks are a great thing,” said Tyler McKay, who grew up in the small town of Rossland and now lives in Vancouver. “It’s also a family thing. My parents would come out and skate with us, whole families would go out in their backyards and skate.”

The backyard hockey rink is a passed-down tradition in Canada, fathers creating places for their kids and friends to play just as their fathers did for them. Players still head to the local frozen-over pond to get a game going, but the backyard rink has an element of safety to it; no chance of falling through the ice into freezing water.

The key is creating a level surface.

Some would-be rink makers are blessed with land that’s already level, but most people will have to move some dirt to get it just right. Fail to do that, and not only will the surface be tilted or uneven, but containing the water before it freezes is like trying to fill a bucket that has a hole in it.

“The biggest problem is people want to build a rink on a hill, and that doesn’t work,” said Mike Barbanente, principal at Iron Sleek, Inc., a Chicago-based company that makes backyard rink kits. “There’s an amount of slope that acceptable, and it’s not easy to hold back water if there’s too much slope.”

VIDEO: Salmon Arm man builds the kids a hockey rink

The simplest versions of backyard hockey rinks, the kind dotting neighbourhoods across Canada, typically involve a shovel, a hose and sometimes a liner, which can be as simple as laying down garbage bags.

Backyard rinks can get more elaborate from there, with real liners, 2-by-4s or PVC pipe with supporting brackets to form the rink, and boards to keep the pucks on the ice. Some people add foam bumper caps, paint lines on the ice, set up lights for night games or get some type of resurfacer for maintaining ice smoothness.

When McKay was a teenager, his father made a backyard rink by packing down snow and piling some along the sides to keep the pucks in. McKay and his two brothers would get up at around 5 a.m. every morning to clear off the snow and add water to keep the surface frozen, then clear it off and add more water after school.

They would play until it was so dark they couldn’t see anymore, and often would look outside to see other neighbourhood kids on the homemade rink.

“Ours was pretty basic. It didn’t have boards or anything like that,” said McKay, who works for British Columbia Golf. “It wasn’t elaborate, but it worked for us.”

Barbanente tried a similar approach when he first wanted to make a backyard rink for his kids, but, being an engineer, he found the surface to be lacking. He researched the best ways to build a rink, and went through lots of trial and error to get it right.

Barbanente eventually turned rink-making into a business, teaming up with lifelong friends to create Iron Sleek. The company sells kits that start at $180 and can get much more expensive from there — he recently helped a client build a $105,000 rink — along with accessories.

“If you like skiing, boating, whatever it is that drives you and is sports-related, if you can bring that to your home, there’s very little you won’t do within your financial reach,” Barbanente said. “People want to have fun in their own backyard and this is a great way to do it. It’s really a club of people with the same passion.”

John Marshall, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Raising awareness about Cystic Fibrosis through a movie

B.C. mother shares the story of her child suffering from the fatal genetic disease

SD91 and UNBC held a workshop where students discussed community stressors

Youth voices are important and need to be heard, says UNBC researcher

BC Search and Rescue Association receives $18.6 million in funding

Largest injection of funds in the history of Ground SAR, says BCSARA secretary Chris Mushumanski

Northwest mobile unit to help those at heart of mental health, addiction crisis

Province, Northern Health unveils new unit in Terrace to bridge gaps in services

VIDEO: The ‘most cosmopolitan’ of butterflies could migrate to B.C.

The painted lady butterfly will likely arrive this summer from Southern California

Is it a homicide? B.C. woman dies in hospital, seven months after being shot

Stepfather think Chilliwack case should now be a homicide, but IHIT has not confirmed anything

Indecent caller handed 18-month conditional sentence

Vancouver Island man pleaded guilty to making indecent phone and video calls to women across B.C.

Sources say Trudeau rejected Wilson-Raybould’s conservative pick for high court

Wilson-Raybould said Monday “there was no conflict between the PM and myself”

First Nations public art piece stolen in Nanaimo

Spindle Whorl went missing over the weekend, according to Nanaimo RCMP

Father-son duo at B.C. Children’s Hospital helps new dads fight depression

The pair teamed up to introduce the only known research-based mindfulness workshop for new dads

Mexican restaurant in B.C. told to take down Mexican flag

General manager of Primo’s Mexican Grill in White Rock: ‘I’ve never heard of anything like this’

B.C. NDP moves to provide tax credits, tax cut for LNG Canada

Provincial sales tax break of $596 million repayable after construction

COLUMN: Smart phone too powerful a tool to yank from students’ hands

Rather than ban them from schools, let’s teach kids to harness their phone’s power and use it properly

Most Read