For many of us in the Northern Hemisphere, play during the cold months meant a makeshift patch of ice wherever one could find it. A pond or a lake and a shovel would suffice. If you lived close to a town’s outdoor rink, even better – if it was maintained.

Best of all, however, are the parents who invested time and effort – and a few bucks – building a backyard rink. These were more often cleared of snow, resurfaced, and, best of all, often offered a free cup of hot chocolate and a warm place to change.

New Hampshire writer Joe Proulx has been skating behind his house ever since his dad built him a rink 35 years ago. He has since graduated to building his own – big time. In Backyard Ice Rink: A Step-by-Step Guide for Building Your Own Hockey Rink at Home ($25.95, The Countryman Press), Proulx explains how he helped turn makeshift experience into a professional career.

But he also does it for the romance, the generational handing down of knowledge that good parents everywhere provide.

“A few months after my father died, I spent a night clearing a recent snowfall and resurfacing the rink with the garden hose,” Proulx writes. “Orion twinkled on my right wing, the Sea of Tranquility on my left. The only sounds were the soft trickle of the water as it spread across the ice and an occasional bass note from an expansion crack. Looking up at the sky, I imagined my father gazing down and smiling. I wiped a tear off my cheek.”


Backyard Ice Rink

Joe Proulx’s “Backyard Ice Rink”


Everyone enjoys having a rink in the backyard











Proulx offers detailed plans to help you get your kids skating and passing and sweating every day. Before long, your little Ovechkin or Pacioretty will be skating circles around you. Most of all, they’ll be having healthy fun during a season that encourages people to be couch potatoes in front of the TV or game system.

Depending on the availability of some scrap lumber, most people will have to spend a few bucks and invest some sweat equity before turning on the hose. But there’s a wide variety of investment plans for this winter project.

You can get skating for as little as a $300 investment, though you may have to suffer a few neighbourly insults on your basic design of pressboard and stakes that give you boards a foot high. Then, again, you can just fire back a slap shot over the backyard fence if you take offence.

If you don’t want to do much work, prepare to pay more, a lot more.

The Nicerink system, for instance, doesn’t require any wood or nails. Its “boards” are composed of white thermoformed plastic, triangular brackets and a yellow foam bumper cap. All you need to put it together is a dead blow hammer. But it can be a more expensive than the traditional backyard rinks, with materials and shipping running upwards of $2000.

In between, Proulx offers advice and a practical how-to guide for every kind of rink you may think of to get you practicing your dangle everyday until spring.