It is that time of year where outdoor ice rinks start to pop-up throughout North America. When I see these rinks I can’t help but want to have hockey go back to the roots of the game, the great white outdoors of winter. Any outdoor rink is awesome for a game of “pond hockey”, but some outdoor rinks have the atmosphere and setting to truly be a special venue. Here are my top 12 North American picks for outdoor rinks to play some pond hockey on. (Note: some of these rinks have restrictions/rules against or inhibiting the play of hockey on them, therefore it is more where I wish I could play pond hockey)
12. Rink at the Brink, Niagara Falls
Having been here before, I can attest to the dramatic atmosphere a game of pond hockey would have here. The roaring of the falls, the beams of coloured light crossing overhead to illuminate the falls, and the enormous amount of ice build-up created by the never ending mist falling on the landscape. Unfortunately the mist, although a cool effect, tends to ruin the integrity of the ice rink surface. The rink would still be a memorable location for a pond hockey game nonetheless.
11. Keystone Lake, Colorado
Regarded as one of the best ice rinks at a ski resort village, this large rink would be perfect for pond hockey. It has a small section boarded in for a true hockey rink feel or you could stick to the large open ice sheet for a pond hockey game. The latter is my preference. The resort rink also tends to be less crowded, as most vacationers tend to go to the Vail slopes 40 minutes away, leaving a realistic chance of being able to get a game in with your buds.
10. Backyard Rink, Anywhere
The backyard rink is nothing special and yet incredibly special at the same time. Sure it has it constant imperfections, but the fact that you built/maintained it yourself is a pride that can’t be overlooked. To this day I remember the countless hours me and my brother spent trying to make the pond in my parent’s backyard perfect, wheeling dumpsters of hot water down to the ice for days. Having friends over and showing them the rink was always a great feeling. Backyard rinks have a special place in all of our hearts as hockey fans and that makes any game of pond hockey on one amazing.
9. Crater Lake, Crater Lake National Park (If it ever freezes again)
Ok, this one might be a stretch so I rated it a bit lower, but the atmosphere of being in a volcanic mountain range on a frozen lake with the rim of a collapsed caldera on all edges would be quite the venue for a game of pond hockey. Unfortunately the last time the Crater Lake completely froze over was in 1949 and the last time it substantially froze was in 1985. For now this one seems it will remain a dream but maybe someday we dreamers might have the opportunity.
8. Campus Martius Park, Detroit
I consider this my “home” rink although Joe Louis Arena is technically closer to my apartment. The rink sits in the center of downtown Detroit, aka Hockeytown. The city is having an unprecedented revival after decades of neglect and the small park in the center of a roundabout on Woodward Avenue, considered the “heart” of the city, is the perfect place to play some good old fashioned pond hockey and take part in the revival of a city.
7. Wollman Memorial Rink (Trump Rink), Central Park NYC
Central Park is quite the stage for a pond hockey game. The cliffs of skyscrapers on the parks surrounding horizon supply ample amounts of people to witness you and your buds play. The experience of the transition from urban concrete jungle to rural oasis already makes a trip to Central Park amazing. Add in some pond hockey and you will feel as if you are up-north while being in the largest city in America; that is quite the contradicting unique experience.
6. Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto
Toronto can be said to be the center of the hockey universe, after-all the Hockey Hall of Fame is there along with the designation of the largest hockey market in the world. This and the ice rink at Nathan Phillips Square make for the perfect environment for some pond hockey. Nowhere else would you be more likely to get as much attention playing pond hockey as in Nathan Phillips Square. With all the audience you might end up forgetting you aren’t in the Pro’s. Standard practice: losing team has to pay all entry fees for the Hockey Hall of Fame.
5. Curry Village Ice Rink, Near Yosemite National Park
A small little town with an ice rink… and the sheer vertical wall of Half Dome in the background. Probably one of the most noticeably stunning backdrops to a game of pond hockey you could ever find. Players better hope the other team has to face the direction of Half Dome during the game so as not to get distracted by the awe inspiring view themselves.
4. National Mall, Washington D.C.
This one takes some planning and luck. I say that because it isn’t everyday that Washington D.C. is cold enough for the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial to freeze and even if it is frozen they usually don’t let people on it. But every once in awhile an unexpected polar vortex comes by and gives you the brief chance to get out on the frozen reflecting pool before the authorities can shut it down. The shallow depth helps it freeze fast in sudden winter storms. A game of pond hockey on the National Mall Reflecting Pool sure would be a sight to see.
3. Molson Canadian Mountain Top Rink, British Columbia
Not only is the location amazing for this rink, but anyone that plays pond hockey up there will be one of only a select few that ever get to. This is the holy grail of pond hockey rinks. Just don’t get your hopes up on getting to play atop this mountain. If the experience of taking a helicopter to the rink was more readily available and not so exclusive this would for sure be the number 1 place to play your next game of pond hockey.
2. Lake Louise, Alberta
Often ranked one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, Lake Louise is already extremely accessible for those looking for a once in a lifetime pond hockey experience. The rink is open to the public and so is its annual “Pond Hockey Classic” tournament. The mountains and true up-north feel of the Banff area really bring the game back to its roots. Pond hockey at Lake Louise is hockey in the purest sense.
1. Rideau Canal, Ottawa
“The Largest Ice Rink on Earth” is the title given to the sheet of ice that forms on the Rideau Canal each winter. Hockey is Canada’s game, and the Rideau Canal is Canada’s ice rink. Unfortunately the two don’t meet up currently as hockey isn’t allowed to be played on the Rideau Canal rink but maybe someday the chance will arise. And at that time the culmination of centuries of hockey tradition will be passed down to a new generation that will get to experience the humble beginnings of hockey… the story of Canadians and a frozen pond and the resulting creation of Canada’s game and its’ ice rink.
What are the best places you have played pond hockey and where do you wish you could play? Share your thoughts on what your top choices would be in the comments below.
Cover Photo by: youtube.com