The Pond Hockey World Championships in New Brunswick is one of the wonders of a Canadian winter. Hockey in it’s purest form, a huge outdoor party, even as temperatures plummet. It got me thinking: How does one make a backyard hockey rink? I don’t have a backyard myself, but curiosity got the better of me. I sought out an expert, and found him in Adam Jakubek, who lives with his wife and three kids in Toronto’s Leaside Area. Over the last five years, Adam’s backyard hockey rink has grown in both size and quality.
“I know it sounds contradictory, but I got into backyard rinks because of the laziness factor. Trying to get my 3 kids to the rink at the same, or different times was getting increasingly difficult. So I thought I’d build one in my yard,” says Adam.
He started small. An 8×10 tarp on the ground, edges lifted up slightly, and filled with water. Two nights later, he had the making of his first rink.
“One of the first things you need is a flat garden. An uneven garden is challenging, as water travels to the lowest point. A flat base is key, so level out the snow to even things out. This can be tough in Toronto, especially if the snow doesn’t stick around.”
Adam suggests visiting a lumber store to get 2×4’s or 2×6’s at 8 feet in length. Connecting them creates the base to frame the rink. Choosting a tarp is also key. You’ll want to pick up a white tarp, as blue tarps absorb the heat and can prematurely melt the ice on sunny days.
Keep a hose indoors, ideally one that rolls up on a freestanding base easy to move around. Connect the hose, and fill the frame with about 2 inches of water. You’ll want at least two nights when the temperature will drop to -10C. “Take some hot water and pour it over the outside tap before you start,” says Adam, “otherwise the tap can break when you try use it.” Once you’re done with the hose, winterize it (turn off the mains that feed it, empty out the hose, and bring it indoors).
Maintaining the Ice
Keep a 4-inch base of ice. You might need to refill the frame if the ice melts. To keep the ice in good shape, sweep away wet heavy snow, which is an ice killer. Watch for falling leaves, which create dimples in the ice. Finally, after a few days skating, Adam takes a bucket of water and throws it over the ice, creating a thin coat that fills out the grooves and keeps the ice smooth. “It’s not a tremendous amount of work once you get the hang of it,” explains Adam. The weather can play havoc but backyard rinks are relatively easy to maintain.
As kids get older, their expectations grow for a bigger rink. This year, Adam is maxing out his backyard space with a 20 x 40 rink. Of course, a rink of that size brings in kids from around the neighbourhood. His rinks have inspired some neighbours to build a rink in their front yard. “A pleasure rink in the front, and a hockey rink in the back,” jokes Adam.
Although it may sound like a lot of work, Adam believes a backyard rink lets parents relax, removing the hassle factor of schlepping the kids to the local rinks, while allowing them to spend more time on the ice, build priceless childhood memories, and grow their skills independently. Of course, it helps to have an understanding wife. “The rink keeps encroaching on the pathway, and every year I steal as much feet as I can. But she thinks it’s great too!”
What you need:
A ridge to frame the rink (either snow or 2×4 lumber)
A hose on a hose reel
There you go. If you decide to build one, I’ll come over with the beers. Not skates mind you, since I haven’t quite got there yet.
One trip at a time…