You hear it before you see it, the snick of blades on ice and the thump of puck on boards.
The rink Bill Rose has built behind his Isabella Street home is more than 70×30 foot patch of ice. It’s also a neighbourhood magnet and cultural tradition as old as Canada itself.
Every weekend and on many weeknights the rink draws in children and their parents for a skate, or friendly game of shinny.
A flashing red goal light has been installed for the more competitive games.
“It’s a family thing,” says Rose, a third generation Sarnia icemaker.
“My grandfather built a rink for my dad, and my dad built a rink for me. He even dug up the backyard to level it out.”
Rose, a 31-year-old electrician, actually borrowed that idea himself. He brought in a ground excavator last summer to ensure a perfectly flat ice surface this winter.
He also built a new heated garage that’s more arena lobby than car park. The plywood-covered floor sports a table hockey game and deck chairs for parents to lace up young skaters.
Spectators can watch the action from a row of stools fronting a large window of puck-proof Lexan glass.
“The wives were complaining that I was taking the guys away to play hockey,” Rose says. “Now there’s a nice place for them to watch and get warm.”
A backyard rink is the best way to confront winter head-on, adds his wife Ash.
“Everyone seems to complain about the winter, but we hardly notice it.”
This is the fourth year for the rink and Rose is grateful his neighbours put up with the noise and the lights.
“It’s definitely worth all the work,” he says. “Gramps isn’t here anymore, but my grandmother is very happy to see me doing this.”