Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Culture of Outdoor Skating

The inspiration for this post arrived this morning, when Rebecca and I went to Tim Hortons and we noticed that our hot beverages were in cups printed with a winter scene that includes some kids playing pond hockey.  This got me thinking about some examples where skating outdoors has made an impact on our culture.

Other than Tim Hortons winter cups, pond hockey can be seen on Canadian five-dollar bills.  So, for the benefit of Backyard Ice's international readers, here is a picture of two (or three) Canadian cultural icons:
(And by the way: yes, this blog does have an international readership.  According to Blogger's stats, well over a hundred Americans have visited Backyard Ice since May, as have handfuls of people from Russia, China, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and Taiwan.  I have no idea how all you people ended up here, but let me welcome you!)

You can't see it in the above picture, but our five-dollar bill also includes a line from the classic Canadian children's book "The Hockey Sweater" by Roch Carrier:
The winters of my childhood were long, long seasons.  We lived in three places - the school, the church and the skating rink - but our real life was on the skating rink.
Speaking of books, someday I would love to read "Home Ice: Reflections on Backyard Rinks and Frozen Ponds" by Jack Falla.  He was a great writer, and I'm sure this book captures everything that is wonderful about skating outdoors.  I know you can't judge a book by its cover, but just the title alone summarizes quite nicely the aim of this very blog.

Despite what coffee cups and Canadian currency would have you believe, I think that fewer people actually skate outdoors anymore, and I'll give you some reasons why that may be.  I've blogged about natural bodies of water, and why I contend that they are unreliable skating surfaces, and that may be part of the reason.  Another reason could be that the backyard rink requires a huge amount of time and effort to achieve success, and you still have to depend on the weather.  Also, people think that backyard rinks are a great idea...just don't ask them to go outside every night when it is minus 15 to flood it.  Finally, of course, the modern kid is much more likely to play Wii Pond Hockey than skate on natural ice.  (OK, I don't know if Wii Pond Hockey is an actual product, but you know what I mean.)  Still, I believe that as long as there are cold temperatures and water, there will be some people who will skate outdoors.

Other than the blog you are currently reading, you can still find some articles about outdoor skating.  Many of these are nostalgia-themed, and a few links to some great pond hockey articles are listed on the right side of this blog.  TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger is a advocate of the backyard rink, and he is inviting other rink builders to send in pictures of their works-in-progress...see if you can find the truly World-Famous "Brook Garden" (...explanation) in TSN's gallery!  Obviously, there are some other die-hards out there who are keeping the culture alive.

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