Rinky dink
They said it couldn’t be done.

Too risky. Too futile. Too impossibly foolish.

But against all odds, I have proved them wrong – nothing is too impossibly foolish for me. And after five anguishing winters of trial and error, I have finally succeeded in my bizarre and demented outdoor ice rink fantasy. No, it does not involve Peter Forsberg.

I am talking about an outdoor rink right here, in the oft balmy winter climes of Southwest Colorado, where people dare to wear shorts and flip flops in February. And this is no flash-in-the-garden, fly-by-subfreezing temperatures-at-night affair. We’re talking eight solid weeks of regulation-sized (for two-on-two, provided at least two of the players are under 4 feet tall) sheet that would make Sid the Kid green with envy. And the neighbors a little green with worry.

See, although we happen to possess the ideal location, a shaded strip of otherwise useless and almost flat land, there is a rather precipitous drop off on the north side of the rink, directly into a brick wall. And there are a few windows that are uncomfortably within wild slap shot range. But other than that, and a few unfortunate overflows into the nearby sidewalk and the use of nighttime floodlights, it’s been smooth skating.

OK, so the filling of what has become known as “Rink Nighthorse” did put a rather large dent in the monthly water bill. But the fact is, I don’t shower much, so it all evens out. Plus, anything that spills over goes back into the river anyway. Eventually. In fact, I’m pretty sure the several tens of gallons that gushed, er trickled, out on the test run have already made their way to Arizona’s thirsty golf courses and strip mall misters.

See, during the inaugural night of Rink Nighthorse, excitement reached a feverish pitch at center ice. The old man went for a sneak reverse on the shaky northern flanks and punched a blade right through the plastic liner. He received a 5-minute major for rink faux pas, once he extracted the frozen extremities from the icy depths. We said a little prayer to St. Gretzky as we patched up the misstep and marked the hazard with a broken stick.

Fortunately, the Great One answered our prayers, and the fix held, much to the delight of die-hard pond hockey players everywhere on the block – all one or two of us. In fact, the rink has held strong even despite some extended tropical vacations by Jack Frost.

And although I have no direct control on La Niña, I can’t help but feel a pang of pride when people remark on my shiny sliver of icy blue perfection. It’s usually a mix of impressed, incredulous and maybe a little jealous.

Yes, I’ll admit, the impetus behind such a cold weather venture doesn’t exactly jibe with the local mindset, and most people immediately glaze over at even the slightest talk of homemade zambonis (PVC pipe and your standard garden hose.) Perhaps the attraction is part nostalgia, trying to relive my own backyard glory days of frozen limbs and figure eights. Plus, there’s just something about enjoying the great outdoors right out your door. Or being able to work on your backhander or partake in a post-dinner familial game of two-on-two. But first and foremost, I did it for the kids. No, really.

See, despite the fact that the only times they mention the word “hockey” is in reference to “no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks,” I still cling to the hope that one day, my youngest will be a badass defender with the name “Scar” emblazoned across the back of her jersey. Hey, some moms dream of beauty queens, I dream of MVPs.

Anyway, the introduction to the sport in general has been a little bumpy.

“It’s the greatest and funnest sport you’ll ever play,” I promised after cajoling them to attend one of my regular city league games. Of course, they watched in horror as a bench-clearing brawl broke out midway through the third period. And although I was not directly involved in the altercation, I may have been guilty of escalating emotions with an unkind comparison of an opponent to a “German” bag. Anyway, between that and the cauliflower ear I brought home last week attempting to stop a slap shot with my head (always remember: there’s no place for heroics in rec league), it’s been a bit of a tough sell. Even with the hot chocolate bribery.

Nonetheless, if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s succeeding in the impossibly foolish. And if you build it, they will come. Even if it is just to mock your pathetic excuse for a wristie and mooch a few beers. In fact, I may be starting to finally wear down the old man, who just traded in the $30 Big Five specials for a respectable pair of Bauers. A stick that’s not held together with duct tape can’t be far off.

As for the kids, ambivalence seems to reign supreme, but at least it’s better than the torturous scream fests of the past. Some nights, the prospect of a little skate even trumps reruns of “Hannah Montana.” Alas, I know the Earth is tilting on its axis even as we speak, bringing us closer to a sad pile of soggy memories with every passing day. But the good news is, I’ve already got bigger and better plans for next year. (Fear not, good neighbors.) Because as in hockey and in life, you’re never gonna hit top shelf if you don’t aim high.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows