From National Hockey League stars Eric, Jordan and Marc Staal who played on a backyard rink in their Ontario farmyard – not to mention the hundreds, if not thousands, of other professional hockey players – to the youngest of skaters eagerly watching their parents prepare the ice for them, the backyard rink is as Canadian as the game of hockey itself.
Here’s some tips on turning your backyard into a icy mecca:
• In your yard, measure out the size you’d like to make your rink and mark it with boards or clear the snow for your chosen area. It’s important to ensure your choose your location because it’s level, not necessarily just because it looks flat. This will save you trouble in the long run of having in uneven ice surface.
• Using plastic sheeting picked up at any home or renovation store (vapour barrier sheeting is recommended as it has a good thickness —around six millimetres — and will be less likely to tear during the rink building process), lay down the sheeting in your chosen location on a day with temperatures below zero.
Backyard rinks can be made without plastic sheeting by creating a snow base but the consensus is plastic allows for a smoother ice surface especially when a Chinook wind can melt the base. Another plus about using the plastic sheeting and sideboards method of a backyard rink is you can set up your rink in November before the weather gets too, too cold saving yourself set-up time in frigid January temperatures better spent skating.
• Boards from 2×4 to 2×10 can be set up on the border of your rink both to help contain the ice and to keep pucks from bouncing out of the rink resulting in a delay of game to search for the snowbound puck.
• With your plastic down and your boards up, make sure the plastic is set over the boards or stapled to the boards so water can’t escape. To keep the liner from billowing in the centre use bricks or wood to hold it down but make sure to remove before the water freezes.
• Flood the rink with water using either a hose or 55-gallon drum repeatedly spraying or pouring until three to four inches of water sit in your rink.
• Once you’ve reached your desired thickness of ice, you can ensure a smooth surface by using hot/warm water as a final coat. The warm water will melt any protruding bumps and fill any holes or divots in the ice.
• Depending on the temperature your rink could be ready the next day but recommended wait time is 48 hours.
• To maintain a smooth ice surface throughout the season, the rink can be flooded with a fresh coat of water every now and then.
• For the hardcore rink builder, floodlights can be purchased for a reasonable price from your local hardware or home renovation store for extended skating hours and a blue line can be created on your rink by using blue tape and coating it with a thin layer of ice before flooding the rink.
If you aren’t the handiest of handymen or women and/or don’t have the time to bounce around shopping for the proper materials you could always just purchase a rink in a box. With all the necessary supplies portable rinks can be purchased from sites such as www.nicerink.com. Happy skating!