There’s nothing like taking to the great outdoors, skates slung over your shoulder and hockey stick in hand, looking for the perfect spot to play pond hockey during a Canadian winter.
It’s typical of us to brave the cold and skate on the frozen waters of backyard or community rinks and irrigation ponds.
The City of London builds and maintains two outdoor rinks in town for anyone looking to lace up and go for a skate. They’re located at Victoria Park and Covent Garden Market.
Manager of Recreation Operations with the city Duncan Sanders oversees the building and maintenance process and makes sure that everything runs smoothly.
“A lot of planning goes into it because we have to make sure the rink is ready, we have to put bumper blocks up around the rink, we have to make sure the refrigeration system is up and working. We traditionally start the refrigeration equipment up after the lighting of the lights at Victoria Park.”
Despite the poorer winter weather (and by poorer, I mean warmer) both rinks are up and running with experienced and first time skaters.
“A lot of people are learning to skate out there because it’s a free venue to go to. Some people fall a lot and we hope that everyone is out there having lots of fun,” Sanders says.
One topic of discussion is whether or not hockey can be played on the city-run rinks. Once upon a time, you used to be able to bring a net, some pucks, and a few of your friends and play a game of shinny. That’s not the case anymore.
“There’s people that get hurt. We have found that some people have been out there and we’ll come in the next day and there’ll be blood on the rink,” says Sanders. “It’s not setup and designed to have hockey played out there, so it’s definitely frowned upon.”
But the city has a solution: the community rink. Built by a community organization with some oversight by the city.
Boyle Activity Council Chair Jason Ahrens explains how their rink came to be.
“The city approached me and asked ‘Would you guys like to have a rink here?’ So they provide the water, a flood cart. We buy the tarp, the wood and supply the people power.”
As far as hockey goes on the community rinks, there are some rules. But it is generally accepted as opposed to the city rinks.
“It’s just making sure people are respectful and wear the proper equipment. We don’t have any boards so we encourage shinny, just keep the puck on the ice. It’s certainly a grey area but we try to discourage people raising the puck at all,” says Ahrens.
Both Sanders and Ahrens, as well as Canadians across the country, agree that you have to get as much skating in as possible while the weather still allows for it.
“It’s whatever mother nature gives us, for sure,” Ahrens says. “This year, December 29 was when we first started getting colder weather. We had some people skate on New Year’s Day, but by January 3 it started to rain again so we kind of lost a few days.”
Call it what you want: stereotypical Canadians playing hockey any chance they get. Or communities coming together to share a passion that they love.