Lessons from Building a Hockey Rink


I built an outdoor hockey rink. Yes, you can repeat that. I have repeated it many a time and I still cannot mentally fathom the idea of its existence. I mean I even skate on it, so I know it is real.


However, it was an absolutely surreal experience. Every moment, from the idea, to the build, to the completion, to the future demolition, it was and is, all surreal, a sort of out of body experience. I do not take credit for developing the idea because we all know this practice has been around long before my arrival into this world. I, also, cannot compare my experience to anyone else’s. It is most definitely a unique experience to every person’s individual circumstance.


Of course, the reason to build the rink comes down to having fun and getting exercise, but building the outdoor rink provided so much more than that. Deep down, well below its superficial roots, the outdoor rink taught me so much more about myself (and life in general), and despite learning some of these lessons earlier in life, the outdoor rink became a reminder of those things, those little things, the important things, that sometimes I (we) forget. So, let me (us) not forget any longer.

Here are the life lessons an outdoor rink taught me:


1) Your Friend Said What?


We all have a crazy friend. If a person says they do not have one, then they are the crazy friend. This friend tends to have different opinions and will say things that seem to come out of left field (upcoming spring, I am looking at you). We love these friends anyway. However, sometimes what they say may actually work! If there is anything that I have learned in 20 years of coaching and 35 years of life is that I do not know everything. It is vital to listen to multiple opinions and take every thought into account before making a choice. Listening to crazy friend’s opinions might just be what a person needs in the moment.


A great friend of mine suggested building the rink back before the holidays. I thought he was crazy. He is a friend that sometimes suggests things that become far more work than it is worth. He suggested this knowing that I was preparing to sell my house and that the busiest time of year was about to begin (high school hockey season). I dismissed it initially. However, after thinking about his reasoning, I said why not. A few hundred dollars, many hours of labor, and constant headaches, I have to say that building the rink was well worth it. He was on to something. Listen to that crazy friend, they might be right!

2) I Got 99 Problems, and the Outdoor Rink is All of Them.


Any person that builds an outdoor rink for the first time gets tricked into the thought that it is some grandiose, perfect, and idealistic conception. It is not! Building an outdoor rink provides more challenges than meets the eye. You must create a plan. You must level the ground. You must buy the materials. You must build the structure. You must line the rink. You must flood it. You also must prepare for broken bracing, unlevel ground, rips in the lining, holes, cracks, snow, bad weather, warm weather. There are so many challenges, and sometimes, not the feeling of much time to accomplish it.


I cannot lie, that even after I bought the materials, built the structure, lined the rink, and began to flood, that I almost quit. There were so many variables that I did not account for that overwhelmed me to the point that the happiness from the project did not outweigh the stress. I actually began to scrap the project. With impending warm weather during January and a clearly uneven surface that I improperly measured, I purposely punctured the liner to slowly leak the water that was remaining. I dumped it all and pulled up the liner. I left it there for 2 weeks. It became an eye sore as I parked my car in the driveway every day.


One night I was sitting on my couch, I decided to give it one