Go outside and play
Overtime, Game 7, Stanley Cup final. You steal the puck at the blue line. You deke out the last defenceman. You are in all alone. You bear down on the goalie. The crowd is going wild. But you hear nothing, but the pounding of your heart. You unleash the best, hardest, most accurate wrist shot ever fired in the history of the sport. The puck flies dart-like to the upper left corner of the net. The goalie desperately shoots out his glove. The puck... Well, you know how it ends, right? Everyone who has ever played hockey, in an arena, on a pond, in a street or a parking lot, has dreamt of that moment of exquisite glory. We can imagine the post-game interviews, the adulation, the parades, the endorsements, the billion-dollar contract extensions.
Sure, we know that only a miniscule fraction of the best players in the world will ever get to play in the NHL, let alone compete in a game 7 of a Cup final and revel in such OT ecstasy.
But that reality cannot stop mortals from dreaming.
And there is no better place to dream than an outdoor rink.
In our February 10 edition, we published a photo of a pick-up game at the Bainsville ice surface and photos of the Dunvegan winter carnival, where a rink was a central element of the festivities.
Those images brought back warm and fuzzy memories for many readers, who as children spent Winter days skating on rinks, ponds, or frozen fields.
Some may not be able to relate to some of the modern conveniences featured at Bainsville’s rink, which is equipped with spiffy equipment, including a mechanical plow.
Now, back in the day, a hands-on approach was taken to maintenance. Players were expected to clear snow themselves, under the “if you don’t shovel, you don’t play” rule. Shovelling was a good way to stretch and warm up the muscles before sides were picked and the puck was dropped.
Young people routinely roll their eyes when older folks become misty-eyed as they describe an era when the air was fresher, forests were thicker and water was cleaner. It was a time when youngsters were expected to “make their own fun,” and they played outdoors, from dawn to dusk. Shinny games were interrupted only when the puck got lost in a snowbank or a dog stole it. This was child’s play. Parental guidance was minimal. A limb would have to be fractured or skin would have to be broken before anyone would even consider seeking the intervention of an adult.
Games would end when a parent called the players home for supper, or Mother Nature took over and turned the ice into slush.
Everything old is new again. Witness the popularity of the NHL’s Winter Classics and Stadium Series, where the setting is everything and the actual contest is an afterthought.
The “feel” of an exterior rink is special. But, without the assistance of mechanical refrigeration, it will become increasingly difficult for people to enjoy this unique milieu.
Yes, we’re talking about climate change, again.
Our favourite pastime may soon become an indoor-only sport because of global warming, studies have indicated.
This Winter has exemplified the topsyturvy weather conditions that we have grown accustomed to in recent years. A swing of 30 degrees has become the norm. We’re golfing at Christmas and freezing on Valentine’s Day.
The future of outdoor rinks rests on the dedication of volunteers and the cooperation of Mother Nature.
Unfortunately, if our planet continues to get warmer, the only place many people will see outdoor rinks is in beer commercials.
The fact that ad strategists and NHL marketers believe natural ice surfaces trigger positive responses from consumers underline a pining for the past. Nostalgia sells. For example, look at the real-life incarnations of the make-believe restaurants that were backdrops for the and TV series. Who would not want to talk about nothing in the a booth where Jerry and his pals hung out?
Another image in our February 10 edition stirred positive responses from readers. The picture was that of Abbey MacKinnon, and her four-year-old daughter, Keaton, from Kirk Hill, having the time of their lives as they slid down a slope at the Dunvegan carnival.
As they say, sliding has its ups and downs. But is there any better way to embrace our longest season? It is low-tech, environmentally friendly, requires no batteries. Gravity does most of the work.
Fortunately, we are surrounded by opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
Mother Nature can drive you crazy with her idiosyncracies.
But on a good day, she can provide us with a vast playground where we can have fun, take in the scenery, breathe in cool, crisp air and/or daydream about roofing a Cup winner.