Outdoor Rink Project

Hockey Everywhere

St. Laurence Valley, QC: Winter Mirage

On our highway drive to Trois-Pistoles today, we caught a glimpse out the window of cluster of ice fishing huts arranged around a sprawling hockey rink on a neat little lake just past Quebec City. The scene was carnivalesque, with what looked like hundreds of colourful shacks connected by avenues of ice.

Try as we might, we could not find a turnoff to the riverbank; our efforts to reach the rink were foiled and we were left with the impression that the thing had been a kind of winter mirage. Perhaps because our emphasis has been primarily on manufactured rinks, this tantalizing peek got us thinking about the many places like it that exist: naturally occurring ice surfaces, just waiting for hockey.

There are many ways to dichotomize outdoor ice: boarded vs. unboarded, hose-flooded vs. zambonied, public vs. backyard. But this is surely the division that is deepest and most interesting: found vs. made.

Found ice is pure magic. To find a perfectly smooth ice surface is enough to make one believe in a supreme power: a body of water that has frozen over sufficiently to hold the weight of a skater, without having been snowed on. Meteorologically, the odds are stacked against such an occurrence—but when it happens, it is a gift.

Made rinks are a different beast. They require time and energy: planning, rolling, flooding, shovelling. These rinks are intentionally crafted by people. They represent labour, artifice and cooperation.

Each kind of rink has its own beauty: the former, the majesty of coalescing natural elements, the latter, the dignity of human industry and the finessing of nature.

Made rinks stem from found ice. But it’s interesting that when we return to our lakes, ponds, and frozen puddles, we tend to create “rinks.” Either through setting up two pairs of boots at opposite ends of the surface, designating boundaries with trees, or making a time clock out of the sun, we superimpose our artificial settings upon our natural ones.

Check out these two short (and amazing) videos to see why we’re saying these weird things! This one is about a found rink in the Yukon and this one is about a made rink in BC.

Thanks to Chris McKendy and Geoff McCaldin for sending us the vids!

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