Winter on an air base in Canada meant two things: A large hockey rink and hundreds of backyard rinks. As you walked down any of the streets you could hear the swish, slash and bang of a backyard rink as diminutive hockey stars practiced their slapshots against piled up two by fours.
My father took great pride in the small rink that he made in our backyard. He would pack down the snow, and pack it again and then flood it, repack and flood again. The rink always had a slight saddle shape and had a few pebble-like bumps. I would practice with my Dad or often just by myself, the blue of the ice oddly lit by our rear porchlight. I would hear the sounds of all the other kids practicing. My Dad was a great skater and had played hockey. He could do what I always wanted to do...skate backwards!
I never became a hockey star. I tried figure skates but they were too dangerous for me. I eventually settled on a pair of tube skates, which were tall and white with no picks and when I outgrew them, I had a pair of boys black and brown leather hockey skates. Despite my skate advantage, I was never a good skater either as I tottered somewhat uncertainly over the ridges and bumps of our rink. The main rink was almost always off limits for anyone who was not in a hockey team. It was slashed and had deep groves made by the red sweatered hockey stars of our base community.
The sounds of backyard rinks are not nearly so common as we tend to take our kids to larger organized venues and larger rinks. While walking my dogs tonight I saw two of them. One had a father and his son playing on a pebbled rink like that of my childhood, the other was a fancier one with what looked like a blue pool lining underneath the ice. The familiar sounds of swish, scrape and shaving ice..brought back many memories of nights beneath the porch light as I practiced the art of skating...backwards!
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