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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Thrills and Spills of Backyard Hockey

Air Date: Week of

A young goalkeeper (photo: bigstockphoto.com)

In Canada, backyard skating is a favorite winter pastime. Canadian journalist Bob Carty brings us an audio postcard from his neighborhood rink in Ontario, and if you don't have one, he tells you how to make one.


CURWOOD: Every year, when the temperature drops low enough, Canadians take to the ice. And when there isn’t a pond in the neighborhood, they make their own. Backyard skating rinks are about as common in Canada as driveway basketball hoops in the United States. Bob Carty sent us this audio postcard from his neighborhood outside Ottawa.


CARTY: You okay? What happened there?

CHILD 1: I plunged into a snowbank head first when I was skating too fast.

CHILD 2: He just couldn't stop somehow, and he just slammed into a snowbank.

CARTY: Are you okay?

CHILD 1: Uh huh.

CHILD 2: Don't try to skate backwards when you haven't even tried it yet, or practice. That's pretty much it. A bruise map is kind of like a map where it shows you where all your bruises are. Those kind of things.


WOMAN 1: When I was a kid, I remember the boys always used to play hockey in my friend’s backyard. And my brothers - I have three brothers - they would use me and other little sisters as goalposts.

WOMAN 2: [LAUGHS] I learned how to skate with the kitchen chair. It had metal legs, and my creepy older brother tried to get me to lick the steel, but no, I didn’t do it.

MAN 1: How to make a backyard rink, by Howard Purchase of Mt. Pearl, Newfoundland. All you need is snow, water, patience, and a cold day. When planning a rink, make sure your hose can reach the area where you are putting the rink. To start, pack the snow solid with a shovel or a rented roller. Or have some children run around on it for a while. They love it, and it gets the job done. There are two ways to make a backyard rink, with plastic, and without plastic.

Backyard hockey rink (photo: bigstockphoto.com)

MAN 2: The first year we started the rink, and tried to do the whole thing in a traditional manner. You’d be out here; you’d be stomping on the snow; you’d put slush and try to have banks of snow on the sides. I was lucky that year because we had good conditions. Last year was a bad winter for making rinks. We didn’t have any snow at the start. So what I was doing was out in the front yard, and I was shoveling all the snow off up the driveway - and wheelbarrowing to the back.
[LAUGHS] That wasn’t enough snow, so then I started shoveling the front street. And then I started shoveling the neighbor’s driveways, but wasn’t going anywhere. And so I finally broke down and started to introduce technology.

MAN 2: Jiffy Rink; it’s an instant skating rink the size of approximately 10 feet by 20 feet. It's a big bag and you fill it up with water. And after it freezes over, after 24 hours it freezes over, the top piece you pull off. You just pull it right off and there you go. There’s your rink.

MAN 1: This year I was planning to buy these bags again, and then my wife was on the internet and found out that there are companies out there that will sell you plastic sheets as liners for your rinks, and so we went and we ordered them on the internet.


MAN 1: Why do I sweep? What you're trying to do is to have as flat a service as possible when you put the flood down. Any little bit of snow, any chip of ice or something like that, it’s going to spoil that. I know it's sad; it's a pretty sad statement, but this is about perfection, making the perfect rink.

MAN 3: I tell people I think my deepest thoughts at six in the morning out there with a half inch hose. And I suppose there is a certain satisfaction in making flat ice.

WOMAN 3: It’s pathetic. [LAUGHS] He’ll go and get the hose and he’ll drag it along slowly like a snake. [WATER RUNNING] And you know it’s great because if we had to go pee, we didn't have to walk down from the park. We could just skoot in the back door and then we’d skoot back out and we’d be skating again and it would only take a couple of minutes.


[MUSIC: Fitzgerald: Neil Young “Born In Ontario” from Psychedelic Pill (Reprise records 2012)]

CURWOOD: Our audio postcard of backyard skating rinks was produced by Bob Carty.



Bob Carty’s website


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