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

Details of Mr. Big sting operation discussed in Castor-area triple homicides

Klaus confesses to arranging murders, says Frank pulled the trigger

Red Deer Royals see over 1,000 letters of support for funding

MP Blaine Calkins to make an appeal to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Man who stopped impaired school bus driver honoured

Red Deer’s Kurt Stenberg receives Lieutenant Governor of Alberta’s Award for Bravery

Missing Ontario man may be headed to Red Deer

Police are searching for Tyler Haney, who may be in the area to find work

WATCH: Lacombe voters eager to get to the polls

Lacombe voters are out today to decide who will represent their interests in the community

Dead boy’s father posts Facebook response after Appeal Court upholds conviction

David, Collet Stephan were found guilty in their son Ezekiel’s 2012 death from bacterial meningitis

Bank of Canada cautious of future rate hikes

The Bank of Canada remains cautious on future rate hikes due to low- inflation risk

London theatre received allegations against Kevin Spacey

The theatre said Thursday the 20 allegations deal with incidents between 1995 and 2013.

Three-car pile-up on Northstar Drive and 58th Street

No injuries reported at Thursday afternoon incident

Da Vinci’s Christ painting sells for record $450M

The painting, “Salvator Mundi,” Latin for “Savior of the World,” is one a few paintings by Leonardo known to exist

Loblaws closing 22 stores, launching home delivery ahead of ‘difficult year’

“We are excited about our future. But…we expect 2018 will be a difficult year,” said Galen G. Weston, Loblaw CEO.

Ban moves ahead in B.C. against same real estate agent for buyer and seller

New real estate consumer protection rules to take effect in March

Indigenous youth deaths preventable, B.C. coroner says

Trauma, mental illness, drugs and alcohol major factors

Most Read