The Perfect Outdoor Rink

Submitted by Derek Alton on March 13, 2013 - 8:36am
A community brought together by ice

Hockey, the great Canadian pass time.  Maybe I am biased because I love hockey, but I think the sport has gone a long way towards bringing Canadians together and building community.  Case in point is my neighbourhood this winter.

This fall I moved to a new area of Guelph that I had never been to before.  It is a sleepy street just north of downtown on Queen Street.  The neighbourhood is defined by the large old houses with big front porches.  I lament that we do not build houses with porches like this anymore.  I think a big front porch brings people out of their houses and helps us connect.

I moved in September and so only got in a month or two of warm porch weather before it was too cold and we were forced indoors.  I did get a chance to meet the neighbours across the street, actually because they were hanging out on their front porch as I was walking buy.  I look forward to joining their baseball team next summer. I also found out about an email listserve for the community, that is used to help organize local events and keep people in the loop.


In the fall, an email thread was started to get the local outdoor rink up and running.  I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet the neighbours and also help out.  I was amazed by the energy and commitment from this group.  On any given day there can be as many as twenty emails bouncing back and forth between a large group about who is flooding the ice and when, what materials are needed and who is going to get them.  It is beautiful community in action.  Despite the difficult weather, their enthusiasm has not been dampened.

In late December, I finally had my first opportunity to get out on the ice, and it was beautiful.  I know its cheesy but I was close to tears I was so happy and so proud of my neighbourhood.  This rink gave me the opportunity to get to know many of the local kids, one kid Caleb, I swear is out there every day and I am amazed at how good he is.  Once he gets to my age, he will skate circles around me.  The great thing about the local rink is it brings people together regardless of skill level.  Everyone who comes is welcome to join and there is only one rink so we have to learn to all play together.  The skilled players give space for the greener players to still have fun while going hard against each other.  Parents will often come and watch their kids play which has given me a chance to connect and learn about who lives in the area and what they do.  I have also learned a lot about the area including the notorious tree (now a stump) that led to a battle between the neighbours who wanted to keep it and the city that wanted to remove it.  Everywhere I have lived in Guelph, the local outdoor rink has been a place where neighbours connect.  Last year when it was a warm winter and we never had an outdoor rink, I noticed that I didn’t have the same opportunity to get to know those in my area.

What is your experience with outdoor ice rinks?  What great stories do you have?


The canal

Hi Derek,

I enjoyed this post- thanks for sharing!

I grew up in Peterborough just minutes away from the historical monument- the Peterborough Liftlocks (the second largest lock system in the world!). On the lower level of the locks- there is a long canal (not as long as the rideau, but still impressive!). Many a winter day was spent on this canal with family, friends, neighbours. Playing hockey, skating and chatting. I agree, it's a wonderful way to build community by having fun together!