Visions of a Backyard Ice Rink

I can almost smell it.

It’s like that hint of dinner you get just before you walk in the door after a long day of work, except with probably a lot more falling and crying.

Hockey.  I can almost smell hockey.

Not the professional kind–I’ve given up on them–but rather the homegrown kind.  I’m talking about a backyard ice rink, because right now, ice skating with my oldest son is dominating my brain.

I tend to do the whole top (insert number) thing when thinking about aspects of my life.  Top 20 movies, top 10 vacations, top 5 dad moments, etc… and ice skating with my 5-year-old this past month has definitely cracked my top 5 dad moments list.  Hockey has always been a passion of mine, and while I never played formally, growing up my friends and I were definitely professional “pond rats.”  Or “river rats” if it was cold enough that winter for such things.

As a kid, there was nothing quite like playing hours upon hours of pick-up hockey with my buddies, the result of which often required the losers to head over to a nearby deli for bagels and hot chocolate, while the winners got to sit back and bask in the glory of being able to put more pucks in between two logs than the other guys.  Pure ecstasy.

Fast forward twenty five something years later, and here I am watching my oldest son learn to ice skate.  Not only that, but now also skating with him.

Right now he attends a weekly clinic on Mondays with kids his age and on Sundays we do a free skate together at the same rink.  Both days are equally amazing for me.  On Mondays I get to see him doing his thing with his peers, along with his newly acquired competitive spirit that he picked up sometime this past spring, and on Sundays I get to share in the experience with him.  The icing on the cake?  The following Monday I can without a doubt see the improvement that comes from our time spent together on Sunday.

Bonding with my son while doing something we both love and helping him develop his skills at the same time?  It’s almost too much for this dad to handle.

But I’m greedy.  I want more.  I want the 2-year-old on skates with no less than 4 pillows duct taped to his body and a full cage helmet with both myself and his older brother teaching him the tricks of the trade on our own backyard rink.  I want my friends to bring their kids over and share in the experience as well.

Then, after we all have hours of fun and tire ourselves out to the point of exhaustion, we send the losers inside to start getting the bagels and hot chocolate ready.  Just like old times.

 Have any experience with building a backyard ice rink and the good times to follow?  Please share your stories and any tips you might have learned along the way.

Brad the Dad can be reached at and found on: Twitter|Facebook|Pinterest


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Enjoy a unique, fresh and entertaining perspective on parenting as Brad the Dad learns what it takes to raise 2 boys in today's world. #DadsRT co-founder.

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  1. Matt says:

    Back yard rinks seem to be the popular thing in New England. I am building one for the first time this year. The issue is a level yard. I am going to have 12 inches of water on one side and 4 inches on the other. I am not sure if this is a huge problem.

    • Keep me in the loop with how it goes. Maybe if you start a day or two ahead of me, I can learn from your mistakes and end up looking like a pro in the process. From what I hear, a level yard isn’t a problem as much as it just takes more work building the frame.

      Good to hear from you, Matt. Hope all is well with the fam.

    • Mike says:

      Take a look at Iron Sleek Brackets. Watch some of the YouTube’s by Iron Sleek. We have a 9 minute instructional video that breaks it down nicely. 14″ of pitch is not a problem.

  2. My husband has been building a rink in the backyard for the last 3 years. Every year it gets a bit bigger and the planning starts earlier. Fall clean up includes moving railway ties that border the garden to make the outside edges of the rink. Then they block access to all open crevices where we lost multiple pucks the last year. This year the fence will be extended with 4 feet of chicken wire to prevent pucks flying into the neighbours yard. It might not be pretty, but it works. Then I wake up to my husband outside every morning flooding the ice. Many hours of love and hard work go into the rink and my boys love it. The best part is, as you say, skating with them or just observing from the window as the sheer joy of being a kid shines through. Good luck with your dream – just go for it!

    • Thank you! I’m all fired up now just reading your post as your enthusiasm, passion, and love for family are all coming through in waves. I hinted at building this rink to my 5yo and his eyes lit up. I hope I can make this a reality. Stay tuned to find out.

  3. My kids are forever berating us about the lot on which our home sits. No room for a rink. Will have to take that into consideration when purchasing our next home.

    • Rates are low, the housing market is down, no points/no closings…. Lol, I just refinanced recently, forgive me. Thank for sharing and thanks for the pic you sent me on Twitter. I love hearing about the joy that others get from this type of undertaking.

  4. James Hudyma says:

    Some of my best childhood memories are in my friend’s backyard rink. A couple of us had them but his was the best and eventually the parents just got together and helped with the one rink. Backyard hockey mania! We had lights and lines and real nets. We’d play until the neighbors would shout out the window for us to go inside. The game did get a little rough in our late teens when hot chocolate was replaced with barley beverages.

    I have a pond in my backyard so mother nature takes care of construction for me. I do know you have to do some research for a proper base or you’ll kill your grass. Go for it! You won’t regret it.

    • Just saw one first-hand yesterday and it gave me confidence that I can at least “half ass” something together for this year and refine my skills in future winters.

      Long live barley beverages!

      • Paulie Zamboni says:

        The great thing is you learn from your mistakes every year and know what you can improve on for next year. I found a really level spot in my yard for a 30×30 rink, but i now have found a way to expand for next year and i know where the lower parts and the higher parts of my yard are. So even if your half ass rink is nothing spectacular, at least its a start to build on for following years.

  5. Sounds like a lot of fun. It makes me curse living in the South! The closest I ever came to a back yard ice rink was sliding down hills on an old fiberglass 18-wheeler fender after an ice storm.

  6. happiestdaddy says:

    What I love about this is the joy we have in passing down our loves to our kids.

    My father always reminds me when I was baby/toddler he listened to Maryland Terrapins basketball games while feeding me. As a teen and young man, watching the games were bonding moments. He never built me a basketball hoop but we still share the joy — and agony — of sports.

    Best of luck with the hockey bonding…it sounds like the cement is already hardening.

  7. Thanks! This weekend should tell the tale if I can actually get this done or not. You will either see another post about this soon, or conveniently never hear about it again. 😉

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