Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Make Winter fun,build your own outdoor icerink.


This is my second winter in Quebec,Canada
and after the first i realised how big hockey is here,the national sport of Canada,i have played astroturf hockey pretty much all my life in South Africa but never before coming to Quebec have i
played ice hockey.Also with all my friends here in Quebec being hockey fanatics i decided to give it a try,i must say the first time was really testing but after a while i got used to it,the hockey side was easy as i could used my skills from astroturf hockey but the skating side was a completely different story,it was very challenging but after help from my friends and alot of tips i fell in love with the sport alomost instantly.So after all of that i decided to build an icerink,trust me if you think its an easy affair think twice because its not,however the hours of fun you will have by yourself or with your friends is totally worth it.

Step 1: Location

This is the most important decision in the making of your icerink,its pretty obvious that you will need a flat piece of land,in my case i used a paddock which is used for riding horses in the summer,this was a perfect location as the ground is really flat and large,the first thing i thought was that i wanted a really big icerink but u have to keep in mind the bigger the icerink the more the work, and also the distance from your water source to the furtherest corner of the icerink is very important because if your hose doesnt reach to the furtherest corner you will have a problem.If you can also find a location which is protected from the wind,that will help alot on those cold windy winter days.

Step 2: The Bands

If you are like me and looking to spend as little money as possible you will only need to put bands/boards on the ends that the goals will be located,you can use snow for the sides.At the end of automne you should be looking to set up your location and start getting your bands together.I was lucky as there was alot of wood at my girlfriends fathers business so i used that but you can use almost any wood thats strong and sturdy,this is important as a puk is really hard especially if your friends can hit a puk with force.My bands or pieces of wood were all different shapes and sizes so it was like putting a jigsaw puzzle together,its not the most attractive bands but it does the job and is really strong.If you are looking to buy you can buy planks of wood at any length just use your discression.

Step 3: The ice

Many people that build their own icerinks will use a tarp for underneath the ice,this is really not essiential and also can be expensive,in winter the ground freezes making a natural tarp,the water
will not seep through the soil as it is frozen. When the temperature is a little bit below
freezing,the perfect temperature is -3 to -4 degrees to start,colder than that is ideal but -1 or -2 degrees is not cold enough,u must be sure to check the weather for the weeks to come as you don't want to start your ice and than in 1week it rains and ruins everything.Hosing your icerink can be a tiring and long affair but the more time you put in to your ice the better the quality it will be.A popular trick is to leave the hose on the icerink with vice gripps or a watering piece thats used to water the grass,leave the hose on a certain area and move it every 15 to 20 mins,u will need to do this because if u leave it for too long on one area and its really cold the water will freeze into a big bump but moving the hose every 20min will leave a equal amount of water all over your icerink,this will leave a really good foundation for your ice,if you continue this process for about 2days you will start to see your icerink form.Another good trick is before watering you wait for a decent snowfall,with a board you pack the snow by standing on it,do this in the area of your icerink and after get the hose out,this also leaves a good foundation for your ice.Never leave your hose outside as the water will freeze and split the hose,always keep it inside or if you leave it outside be sure to drain it after each watering of your icerink. Ok so your ice is looking good however there are little bumps here and there,some people will use a homemade zamboni however if you dont have access to one of those just take the hose and put the nozzle directly on the bump until the water melts the bump and smooth it out with your shoe.The trick with your ice is to have patience dont rush to get on the ice and play,make sure the ice is strong and ready!

Step 4: Finishing touches

Some people choose not to put a net or tarp behind the goals,without this missing the goal can get really irritating as u will need to fetch the puk each time,also if its been snowing finding a puk in the snow can be difficult.The best is to put a net,but nets can be really expensive as you will need a net thats strong as it will need to stop a flying puk,also with a net if its windy the wind will flow through the holes in the net.I used a tarp which was really cheap however the disadvantage is when its windy the tarp acts just like a sail on a sailboat,so each time its windy i take the tarp down which is abit of pain but it beats paying a ridiculous price for a net.When you are watering your ice make sure to water the your 'snow sides' as this will make them freeze and become hard,so when the puk hits them it will just deflect and not peirce the snow.Another nice final touch is to put a bench or something which your friends and family can sit down on to change into their skates and also to have abit of a break when the hockey or skating gets abit tiring.

Step 5: Maintenance

After alot of play there will be a a thin layer of snow on your ice this can get really irritating as every hockey player wants the perfect ice,the best thing to do to get the best surface is first to scrape off the snow with a spade,a metal spade is best as its more stronger therefore scraping of more snow,the more snow u can scrape off the better the quality of your ice will be, after that get a everyday normal broom and sweep off the access snow,this will insure that there will be no bumps after you water your icerink. Also after alot of play holes might occur,to fix this problem just grab a handfull of snow fill the holes with the snow and add water,smooth it out with a puk,wait 15mins or depending how cold it is and after that it should be perfect.

Happy Skating

The feeling of having your own icerink is one of the best ever,its a huge accomplishment as you
have alot of fun,winter can sometimes be really boring and for some getting into the car and
driving to the closest icerink can be a big mission! But if you brave the cold and use the elements of winter you can create alot of fun for you and your friends.