Outdoor rinks are everywhere in northern Ontario – especially in the rural areas. There are a few in the cities but most are in the smaller towns, villages, and outlying areas.
In December they replaced all the boards with brand new ones, replaced the fencing behind the goals and levelled the ground so the ice would be nice and smooth - something that has needed to be done for a long time. They had men working there for weeks and they finally finished it in January while all the neighbourhood kids waited patiently.
The kids managed to get a few good weeks of skating and hockey time in and then we had a thaw – no more rink for a while. February turned colder and was pretty good until the past few days – another major thaw! Now, all that's left is a huge melting puddle and a bunch of sad looking faces! Hopefully it will freeze again for the upcoming March Break and they will get a few more days of winter fun before they hang up their skates and put away their sticks for another year.
I grew up with outdoor rinks and have never really given much thought to them until my in laws came up from Texas last fall. My MIL took some photos of the rink and that’s when it hit me that not everyone has the luxury of walking down ( or across in my case) the road to skate or play hockey whenever they want. Some people never get to experience skating outside while big white fluffy snowflakes fall all around you. That’s the best! And when that happens, everyone grabs a shovel, forms a line, and they work together to clear off the ice.`
I considered myself very lucky as a child because my parents bought a cottage on a small lake which we remodelled into our year round home. All I had to do was put my skates on and walk across our front yard about 5o yards to a patch of ice that we cleared for a rink. That’s where I learned how to skate but always enjoyed going to the many outdoor rinks with my friends. Most of the rinks had a small shed or attached building that housed a few wooden benches and an old woodstove in the corner. The shed was always a nice warm place to take a quick break. The smell of the maple logs mixed with the aroma of hot chocolate is burned in my memory forever. There was always adult supervision and kids of all ages. It was as much a social gathering than anything else – something to do on the long winter nights that seemed way too long when darkness started at 5 PM and you only had 3 TV channels to choose from.
My skating days are pretty much over now and I don’t take my girls anymore because they are old enough to go themselves. In a few years, my Granddaughter will put on her first pair of skates and I’ll be glad to take her and help another generation learn the enjoyment of going to an outdoor skating rink. Until then I’ll be content just listening to the *boom* of a slap shot echoing off the boards and watching the crowd of skaters from my kitchen window.
Hugs from Connie!