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

Rock the Rink gives youth once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Winning band will get to play a set at Rock the Shores

Esquimalt council green-lights first mass-timber building on Vancouver Island

Mayor appreciates 12-storey structure’s proximity to naval base, graving dock and Seaspan

Greater Victoria School District adopts new dress code policy

Two years in the making, SD61 moves to more inclusionary guidelines

Fiery crash in Metchosin

Police still investigating the cause of the crash

Sooke makes call for regional fire dispatch

Some municipalities decide to take service off-Island

Parents call for change to health laws after Oak Bay teen’s death

Accidental overdose has Elliot Eurchuk’s parents seeking change to B.C Infants Act

B.C.’s living wage increase curbed due to MSP cuts, child care subsidy: report

Living wage varies between $16.51 in north central B.C. to $20.91 in Metro Vancouver

Amalgamation Yes hosting citizen’s assembly info meeting Wednesday at Vic High

Mayors of Victoria and Saanich will be on hand to give updates to residents

Doctor sees healing power in psychedelic plant as Peru investigates death of B.C. man

Peru’s attorney general has ordered the arrest of two suspects in the killing of 41-year-old Sebastian Woodroffe

Toronto police officer ‘gave himself the space and time’ in van attack

Footage shows officer standing up, turning off his siren and talking clearly to the suspect

$1.18 to $1.58 a litre: Are you paying the most for gas in B.C.?

Gas prices across B.C. vary, with lowest in Vernon and highest in – you guessed it – Metro Vancouver

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of April 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Inquest set 10 years after B.C. woman shot, left to die

Lisa Dudley, and her partner, Guthrie McKay were shot in their Mission home in September 2008

B.C. hockey team to retire Humboldt Bronco victim’s number

BCHL’s Surrey Eagles to retire Jaxon Joseph’s No. 10 in light of bus tragedy

Most Read