At a time when we live in a land of snow and ice, it may seem a little odd to add even more ice to your yard. But when you factor in the fact Canada is a hockey-mad nation, the backyard ice rink makes perfect sense.
That’s exactly the case with Chris and Christine Allison, who’ve built a rink at their Robin Drive home in Elmira.
“We’ve made one for a couple years now, and last year we kind of perfected it and we thought we should just go bigger,” said Christine with a smile.
Bigger indeed: at 40 feet long, it’s one-fifth the length of an NHL ice surface, and about half the width.
The couple says they started building the rink about five years ago when their daughters Octavia, 10, and Odessa, 8 started skating lessons. And what started as the typical ice pad in the backyard soon grew to become one that is visible almost to the end of the block.
The Allisons have also built a scoreboard and rigged up outdoor speakers, painted curling rings on the surface of the ice, and even built plywood boards complete with the painted names and logos of local companies such as Canada Post, Chemtura, and Bob Wilhelm – the girls’ guitar teacher in Elmira.
“He did offer to pay us five bucks,” Christina said, laughing while seated at the family’s kitchen table, “but we told him not to worry about it. We took a photo of the board and sent it to him for Christmas.”
The rink has been up since the middle of November, and Chris cannot even begin to estimate the number of hours that he has put into building and maintaining it. They spent between 10 and 15 hours alone just painting the boards.
It certainly wasn’t easy to build, either. Their yard has a pronounced slope towards the back of the property, which causes the water to flow downhill and is not very conducive to making a level ice surface. To fix that, Chris says he goes out early each season with a shovel and a yard roller to level out a section of the yard by flattening snow.
“It’s almost like an obsession,” Chris laughed.
“I work shift work, so sometimes I flood it in the morning, or at night. I might flood it three times a day if it’s cold enough. It’s my hobby.”
Last year the couple took their rink idea one step further by holding their first annual Winterfest – a day-long party in which they invite 35 to 40 friends and family over for a tin-can curling competition, a mini hockey tournament, as well as a barbecue.
Unfortunately the Allison’s say that there are not many other young kids in their neighbourhood, so they invite their children’s friends over whenever they can and also have their niece Katie and nephew Cole Martin over to use the ice.
As for next year, Christine isn’t sure if they’re going to continue the trend and make the rink even larger than it is already, considering it is basically against their property line as it is right now.
“We have new neighbours who moved in and he told us ‘oh don’t worry about the property line, make it bigger.’ I don’t know if we will or not, though.”