Outdoor Rink Project

Hockey Everywhere

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Game over? Next goal wins.

This trip has been a lot of fun but it is really over now. For those of you who came along for the ride and followed us on our outdoor hockey adventure, thanks a lot! For those of you who just stumbled upon this blog in some beautiful future, welcome!

In either case, we thought we should write a quick post to put a cap on things and also link to some of our favourite content from the blog.

If you have absolutely no idea what this site is about, you might want to check out our first post right here. Alternatively, you can listen to us try to explain our trip to a group of francophone high school students in Trois-Rivieres.

A couple of our funnier posts went down because of escapades in Montreal. In this podcast, we talk about all of the annoying things that some players do on the ice. Here, we formalize the rules of outdoor hockey into ten mostly-satirical commandments. In these audio clips, Ryan explains Mark’s many injuries and their hilarious causes.

Our time in Toronto was all about rules and the institutionalization of outdoor hockey by the City. In this podcast, we discover the trend in an awkward way. In this podcast, we find someone who has figured out ways around the trend.

Our visit to Ottawa gave us some big dreams. We challenged the Prime Minister to a game of outdoor hockey and we thought about illegally playing hockey on the Rideau Canal.

Ah, yes, and then there were our articles for the Halifax Chronicle Herald. In chronological order, we wrote about a man who invested more that $100,000 dollars into his backyard rink in Northern Ontario, a city with the most sophisticated and infuriatingly bureaucratic system of outdoor rinks in the entire world, a park where volunteer flooding has been turned into a science (except when the hose breaks), the death of hockey’s innocence in Montreal, our linguistic misadventures in the heart of Quebec, diversity in outdoor hockey, outdoor rinks and climate change and finally the incredibly cool World Pond Hockey Championship in New Brunswick.

In Fredericton, we found a couple of experts who talked to us about interesting parts of the game that we hadn’t thought much about. Here, we had a conversation with a man named Jim Morrell who told us about how important outdoor hockey can be in developing skills. Here and here, we went on an outdoor hockey sociological odyssey with UNB sports history prof Fred Mason.

Any road trip results in funny conversations in the car. Two of our more interesting chats that we caught on tape were about windshield wiper fluid and clementines.

We also had some fun throughout the trip thinking about more philosophical sides of outdoor hockey. Here we talk about found rinks versus made rinks. Here we talk about how it can be weird to try to write about outdoor hockey. And here we have a conversation about erotic pursuits on the ice rink. Okay, maybe there’s nothing philosophical about that last one.

There are some other good things on the site too (like the winning entries to our writing contest, some sweet Montreal photos, a bunch of great links to external content, and a funny conversation that went down while we were flooding an Ottawa rink), but we’ll let you go find all that stuff yourself!

So see you out there. And bring pucks.


Ryan and Mark


Final column!

Our last column, all about the World Pond Hockey Championship in Plaster Rock, appears today in the Halifax Chronicle Herald. It can be read right here.

Bryan Gruley of the Y.A.N.K.S. (Your Average No-talent Knuckleheads from the South) has been coming to the World Pond Hockey Championship in Plaster Rock for nine years.

Skating Under the Influence

We’re happy to report that we never did anything quite as stupid as this on our outdoor hockey trip. Thanks to Geoffrey McCaldin for the great video share!

On thin ice

Because of the delicate balance of temperature and precipitation that it requires, the outdoor rink is a canary in the global warming coal mine. Our penultimate column in the Chronicle Herald focusses on the relationship between outdoor hockey and climate change.

An iceless rink in Parry Sound, ON

You might also want to check out this piece in the Toronto Star about making ice for Winterfest when there isn’t really any winter. Thanks to Barbara Dance for passing along the link.

Finally, shortly after our article came out, Jane Hilderman sent us this article in the Globe and Mail about outdoor hockey and climate change.

Who says there aren’t winners in outdoor hockey? (Part 2)

Yesterday, we featured the runners-up to our Most Amazing Shinny Experience writing contest. Today, the Grand Prize Winner! Carolyn Inch brings us this beautiful outdoor hockey story from Chelmsford, Northern Ontario. Great job, Carolyn. We hope that you enjoy your prize pack and thanks for following us on our trip!

The Promise

I remember my mother saying to her farmer son-in-law “If I get that old-timer’s disease, Rick, take me out to the back forty and shoot me.”  Rick was the natural choice for the task, being an efficient dispatcher of horses with broken legs and unwanted dogs dropped off at the end of the road.

Ironically, several years later, I was reminded of mom’s half humorous instructions on the farm one Christmas day.  It was a day when nature colluded with the calendar—a deep blue sky, a river frozen before the snow fell, and a family gathered whose fathers and sons loved hockey.  The women folk, including mom, were always keen participants in whatever the outdoors had to offer on our Christmas visits: horse-drawn sleigh rides or ski-doo rides or mucking out the barn.

That day, after we opened the gifts, ate too much breakfast and drank too much coffee with Baileys, we wound our way through the birch and scrub spruce, breaking out of the forest into a shining expanse of blue-black ice.

Mom was already pretty advanced in her illness so had to be led along.  But she was physically strong and the spirit of the event seemed to breathe some expression into her vacant face.

Ice on a river with a current has endless variations of bubbles trapped below the surface as well as cracks and colours suggesting underwater sprites and secret caverns.  Everyone was enchanted by the setting and spirits were high.  The boys—my two sons of nine and 12 and their nine-year-old cousin—were itching to show off their hockey prowess.

It was Rick who thought of it: “let’s put mom in net.”  Maybe he was recalling his long-ago promise to her and hoping for a wild puck to do the job. Who knows? What I do know, though, was that for a few minutes on that cold, brilliant morning, mom was part of the game.

The scraping of skates with sudden stops, the snap of a hard pass, the sense of urgency and peals of hilarity as the puck shot down the river with everyone in hot pursuit… mom responded by trying to stop the puck from entering between the two boots that we had set up as the goal. Surrounded by the grandsons she was so proud of and a wilderness setting where she had always been most at home, for a few moments the disconnected neurons found their way together through that swiftly encroaching plaque and she joined us for the last time.

The sights and sounds of that bittersweet day are deeply etched in my memory but mainly it’s the feelings that flood back.  It was magic—a sheet of ice on a northern river; sure, graceful movements; laughter, family, love and loss.

Thanks again to all of the participants in our Most Amazing Shinny Experience writing contest. We had a great time reading your entries and it’s nice to know that you’re out there!

Who says there aren’t winners in outdoor hockey? (Part 1)

Thank you to everyone who submitted an entry to our Most Amazing Shinny Experience writing contest! We received some great pieces and today we present the two runners-up of the contest.

In this first selection, Stu Campana deals with that classic outdoor hockey dilemna: what do you do when you’re playing against someone who is just infintely better at the game than you are? Here is his blindingly brilliant answer.

The Blackness of the Ice: Patience and Pond Hockey

When you play hockey like I do, there’s really only so much impact an impediment like possessing no limbs, or, say, blindness, could have on your game. This is a reality I came to accept at a very early age.

My best friend, meanwhile, was puck-handling sorcerer, who went on to play Major Junior hockey. On the lake behind my house, he would carve rings around me so perfectly concentric I could’ve scooped them up and fashioned myself an ice necklace while I waited for global warming to slow the game pace.

I learned to be patient. All afternoon the puck would move away from me like the wrong end of a magnet, but I knew that sooner or later it would get dark. Very dark. If I were lucky the clouds would hide the moon. And then, at the point where an NHL game might have been cancelled for reasons of “it is so dark that time itself has become lost and disoriented”, I would strike.

Stumbling unswiftly into action, I’d swing my stick this way and that, connecting with ice, goalposts, friends, snowbanks and occasionally even the puck. Darkness—that great leveller—disadvantaged the skilled and smiled upon the joyfully uncoordinated.

In all the years since I have never been able to convince a full hockey team to play in the dark. And so it remains that midnight lake hockey is when I shine brightest.

In this second selection, John Dance finds perfect ice and leaps into a spontaneous “hockey orgy.”

Under the Bridge

About 15 years ago, some weeks after Ottawa’s Rideau Canal was closed to skaters and before the ticketing NCC police prevented you from going on the Skateway altogether, the surface refroze perfectly under the Queensway Bridge. I was biking to the YMCA for a morning swim but I saw somebody with a hockey stick on this spot of new ice… so I biked back home, got my skates and stick and joined in.

And then others spontaneously appeared—sort of as though they had been shinny-loving spores, always floating in the Canadian air, waiting for some piece of ice to magically appear. And we played. It was a bit of a hockey orgy (sort of group sex without the sex) … few of us knew anybody else but everybody just revelled in this perfect ice and the pleasure of sneaking in one last totally unexpected game of shinny before the strong spring sun gained height and rotted our rink of perfection.

Thanks to John and Stu for their great entries and to all those who submitted! The overall winner of the contest will be featured here tomorrow.

Column 6: Freeze on Diversity

Here is our latest article in the Chronicle Herald! It’s all about outdoor hockey and diversity.

Halifax, NS: Made it! (Part 1)

We’ve reached our destination! Although there are a number of columns and blog posts yet to come (including the winning submission from our writing contest), we thought now would be a good time to throw down a map of some of the places we’ve visited.

Here is the first chunk of our trip, ending in Trois-Rivieres. The second part, Trois-Rivieres to Halifax, will be posted in a few days, once Mark has gotten back to Ottawa. The starting point on this map is Ottawa and you can zoom in to see at least some of the rinks that we hit in the bigger cities. Click “view larger map” to get a better angle on things.

Halifax, NS: In Search of Lost Ice

We went to beautiful Point Pleasant Park yesterday in the hopes of playing some hockey. We had heard that there was a time before amalgamation when Quarry Pond had been maintained as a skating rink by the city. The pond is just in off of Point Pleasant Drive. It is a gorgeous spot, sheltered from the wind but exposed to the bright winter sunlight.

Here’s what we found:

The ice was thick and potentially skateable, except for the debris littering the surface and rocks jutting up, threatening to destroy wandering skate blades. We tried to chip away at some of the junk and a nice dog appeared to help us.

After our canine companion abandoned the effort, we eventually gave up, too. We accepted that we could only dream of hockey on Quarry Pond.

That said, it really would not take much of an investment to make the rink usable once again: a little flooding to get the rocks below the surface, enforcement of the “Do Not Throw Wood in Pond” sign, a lamp post, and maybe a couple of hockey nets. Yes, that would do it…

But don’t be misled by our failure. Nova Scotia, when the weather is right, does have good outdoor hockey rinks. Check out this article in the Coast to see profiles of some of the best backyard spots.

The Biggest Game of your Life

This is just a reminder that you’ve got until Friday at noon to enter the MOST AMAZING SHINNY EXPERIENCE contest!

We’ve only four entries so far so you’ve got a very good shot at the ULTIMATE OUTDOOR HOCKEY PRIZE PACK, which is so impressive that it is always capitalized and bold when it appears in print.

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