Ottawa, ON: Icy Temptation
While walking along Echo Drive in Ottawa, it is very difficult not to notice the Rideau Canal off to the east. And in the winter, noticing the Rideau Canal makes it very difficult for me not to be perpetually annoyed.
Please let me explain.
It’s not that I don’t like the Rideau Canal Skateway; it is a very fun way to get places in Ottawa and I would never—let me repeat, never—vilify Beavertails. It’s just that at a certain point in the autumn, I start to crave hockey. Any ice—even a frozen puddle seen fleetingly from across the street or a popsicle that someone has left unattended—starts to get me manically taping my stick and anxiously stacking and unstacking pucks.
So when I see the Canal not yet opened but beautifully smooth and devoid of traffic, I start to get a little crazy.
I am not the only one who feels this way. I can remember that my father and other neighbourhood hockey dads sometimes shared my sentiment. There was even the occasional December morning—when the Canal was thickly frozen but still far from open—when we would risk it. We would sneak under the Queensway Bridge and fire pucks back and forth for as long as we dared.
In grade nine, we had a gym teacher from France who had a similar idea. He was less subtle than our wily fathers, though, and he was also understandably ignorant of the rules concerning Canal usage. When the National Capital Commission (NCC) showed up to fine him for illegally bringing his class of 30 boys out onto the ice, he said what we were all thinking: “What?! I don’t get it! The ice is right here and nobody is on it!”
And I know what you skaters are going to say: it is not like there is a lack of outdoor hockey ice in Ottawa—in fact, there are 247 city-funded rinks and many more privately-maintained surfaces. It’s just that I can’t hold myself back; the ice calls out to me. It demands hockey. And once you start thinking about it, you also start to do the math: 7.8 kilometres of Skateway, average width of about 21 meters… my god, that’s 90 Olympic-sized hockey rinks!
But don’t worry, we’re not going to go down to the Canal right now—perfectly flooded by still unopened—to see how far we can pass the puck before we get apprehended and fined by the NCC. That might agitate our editor and qualify as a not-so-great publicity stunt.
That said, let me repeat myself: it is perfectly flooded and still unopened.
I’ll just add a final thought: I’ve heard rumours that, from time to time, Carleton University hockey players hit the Canal ice in the dead of night, right after a fresh flood. I could be wrong, but you might some day wander down at the witching hour and see if these stories are true. Oh, and you might want to bring your skates and stick with you, just in case.