The iceman cometh… sort of

Having two hockey crazy kids at home, my wife and I have talked for quite some time about building an outdoor rink in the backyard.

And with COVID wreaking havoc on indoor activities for much of the past two years, it seemed like a really good idea this year.

Santa thought so as well. The jolly man even left a set of plans under the tree in an envelope addressed to me.

With Premier Doug Ford recently announcing the latest shutdown of recreational facilities – and the weather turning cold and snowy – last Thursday I decided the time was right to get working on this.

I had all my supplies – the wood for the outer frame, plastic to hold the water, and a hose for water – and set out to work.

During a blizzard.

After trudging through the snow to get my outer frame the right size and connected, I called it a day.

The next morning, after fighting to get the plastic out of the house (if you saw this gong show, you can stop laughing now), I went about spreading the plastic as one would when making an outdoor rink.

Mother Nature decided she would have some fun with me.

My 20’ by 36’ foot piece of plastic was seemingly attracted to every gust of wind. I’d get two sides down where I wanted them, start on the third side… and the wind would blow up the other two sides.

This went on for a while. After 10 minutes of struggling, I recruited the boys to come out to help. After another 10 minutes, we got the plastic spread out.

After getting some snow moved around, it was time to hook up the hose and get some water on this thing.

Being a smart homeowner, I had turned off the water to the outside of the house in the fall so it wouldn’t freeze…

Or so I thought.

Turns out, I didn’t turn it off and I have a frozen faucet. But that’s another project for another day.

Luckily, I have a laundry sink in the basement right by a window to the backyard. So I got the hose hooked up there, opened the window and got to work.

What was supposed to take about 20 minutes turned into more than an hour.

Feeling like I had finally accomplished what I set out to do, I headed back inside to prepare for the brutal commute to work – from the coffee pot to the desk in the living room.

Thankfully, traffic was light.

About an hour later, I checked on the progress of the rink, feeling confident.

To quote pro wrestler Wade Barrett, “I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news for you.”

Turns out the plastic had a small hole in it, causing a leak.

After discovering where the leak was, I went about patching it. After the remaining water froze, I decided to start adding water again.

Another leak.

I repeated this process a few more times, finding a leak each time.

Eventually, all the leaks were found, patched and I continued the process.

Then the freezing rain came.

Finally, a break!

The rain helped add another layer of ice for me, which was greatly appreciated following the struggles of Thursday and Friday.

Then it snowed.

Now, anyone who has made an outdoor rink before can attest to this – snow is either your best friend or worst enemy.

Right now, it is my enemy.

As I write this, it has been two days of snow and two days since I’ve done any real work on the rink. Flooding just gives the snow something to stick to, leaving you with a bumpy sheet of ice.

Now, as frustrating as this has been, I am trying to learn from this.

I have learned that making ice is not as easy as it seems, and that patience is a virtue – you can’t rush ice.

Hopefully the snow lets up by the time you read this, and the kids are out skating on the ice.

I’ll let you know next week.


Mike Wilson is the editor of Midwestern Newspapers and an amateur ice maker. Comments, feedback and tips on building outdoor rinks can be sent to