SASKATOON – In Saskatchewan, anywhere you go, it doesn’t take long to spot kids playing shinny on an outdoor rink.
But it’s the unsung heroes behind the scenes who make it possible on the prairies.
Aric Dodd has been taking care of the south Nutana Park community rink in Saskatoon for the last six years. He stepped up to the plate when the old coordinator moved.
“I like it when I see everyone from the community coming out bringing their kids and my kids get a big kick out of coming here because their dad’s the rink boss so it’s been fun and we have a good group of guys that help out here,” said Dodd.
Dodd would be the first to tell you it’s not a job; it’s a passion, no matter how many hours he puts in.
After 20 plus years of an untouched pond, Waldheim Valley Regional Park Assistant Chair Greg Wiens and his friends teamed up to bring an outdoor rink back to life in the town.
Watch the video below: Saskatchewan town works together to build community rink
“I said go for it, it was just a great idea, long overdue and it was a great thing to do,” said Waldheim Mayor John Bollinger.
“There’s barely any times for kids practices except for really early in the morning or late at night, this has been great it allows practices at regular times, whether it’s after school or 9 to 10 o’clock in the morning on Saturdays and it’s open all the time,” said Wiens.
It took 12 to 15 hours to get the rink up and running. The first official skate was Dec. 10, the community has taken advantage of it ever since.
While community rinks around the province get a lot of traffic and use, many Saskatchewan kids get their start skating in the backyard.
This is the first year Brad Kraft has made a backyard rink for his kids in Saskatoon.
“We had a local pond in Lloydminster and it was fantastic, we would go right after school, come home for supper and head back out until 10 or 11 at night every day just practicing,” said Kraft.
“It’s awesome to have these backyard rinks then I can get my kids to that level a lot faster, so that when they have all of their friends head over to the community rink for hours on end they’re all caught up to speed.”
Maintaining a backyard rink can prove tedious, especially when getting creative.
Jason Bohn and his family have put in over 80 hours, not to mention adding a few hundred dollars to their water bill in Saskatoon constructing a curling rink.
“It’s good to see actually the work that you put into it, it pays off when they’re enjoying it,” said Bohn.
Bohn remembers growing up, coming home from school putting the skates on and going out to play with friends on a frozen pond. This year is the second winter his backyard has become the gathering place.
“Just to get out, have fun, obviously for the kids, we have family and friends who come over on weekends and we curl and skate and it’s just something to get out and enjoy the winter I guess,” said Bohn.
No matter if you have a backyard rink or head to the community rink, the condition of the ice all relies on the weather.
Between minus 5 and minus 15 is the perfect temperature, not only to get out and skate but for maintenance.
“You get everyone to gather together on a Friday night to flood and oh it’s plus 5, can’t flood it won’t freeze and the next Friday out it’s minus 25, it will crack, so that’s been difficult,” said Dodd.
Minus 40 or not, the weather hasn’t stopped the passion for Saskatchewan’s pastimes before and it doesn’t look to be slowing it down anytime soon.