How to build a pond hockey rink and top 8 lessons learned
Note - updated Dec 2019 with the perfect outcome at the bottom...
Original - With a whole crew coming up for new years we decided to put a hockey rink together - and wanted to go all out. Some years the lake isn't all that solid by the end of December but we were in luck this year and had great conditions. Here is the lake in early Nov and then again in Dec. You can see the snow machine tracks running right where we wanted to put the rink, they needed to be dealt with.
We set out with an ambitious plan and weren't sure where it would end up. It started with power. Peter ordered a shovel for the ATV. Let me say this, if you plan on making a big rink in winter, get some power behind you. For one, clearing all that snow to start with can really sap playing enthusiasm. For another, every time it snows it can be a bummer instead of a blessing, and you never want to be bummed about fresh snow!
What we learned!
1) Check the thickness of the ice before starting out!... and remember, if you ever do far in the ice climb out by going back the way you came from... at some point in the past you were fully supported... there may be no place in your forward path that can lay claim to that achievement.
2) Get some power behind you if at all possible (Pic of ATV here). By adding some extra weight to the front of the ATV were were able to scrape off some of the indents left on the ice by snowmobiles tracking over where we wanted to put our rink.
3) Location, Location, Location: Choose how close you want the rink to be to the edge of the lake. Is the ice stable near the edge? Have snowmobiles been using that area as an access point weakening the ice? Do you want late night overtime games keeping the kids up? Also, we put an outer ring for learners and those who didn't wanted to speed skate on the outside meaning we had to move the middle of the rink another 20 feet offshore. There is a lot of questions to answer before centering your rink.
4) Size... it always matters: Year one we wanted to be bold so we made a rink that was 100 feet long by 50 feet wide... great if you're in the nhl but as only 6 of us were ever playing we ended up playing side on a lot of the time! I'd recommend 20 feet + 10 feet for every player... so if there are 4 of you then a 60 foot rink by 30 feet wide should be great.
5) Clearing the snow: It quickly became apparent that Zamboni drivers are no dummies! By far the most effective method was to clear the middle lane and then go around in long ovals (with long straights) pushing everything to the outside. An ATV isn't really designed to handle this much snow. It did fine, but some of the piles required a fair bit of speed to impact as the relatively light weight ATV was no match for them at low speeds.
6) Flooding the ice. After clearing the snow we wanted to make a good surface to really show off our skills. That involves a flood, by far the most effective and tricky part of the operation. First is the easy part, cutting a hole in the ice and getting the 2" pump throbbing. We used a chainsaw to dig into the ice but an auger is really the tool of choice. We were only digging into about 1 foot, had it been much deeper we could have been in trouble.
We tried many different techniques. From spraying drops over the surface to flooding areas and waiting overnight. The best method was to start at the far end of the ice and let as thin a layer as possible be flooded while backing the hose away from the edge and toward the water source. Thickness of water is the enemy, as it takes longer to freeze, forms deeper cracks, and adds weight to the ice surface putting the integrity of your rink in danger.
7) Hockey Accessories - to play the game properly a few pieces of equipment help. We brought nets, 2 by 6 for stopping pucks behind the nets, spray paint, red and blue for the blue lines and face off dots, and flood lights for some late night action.
8) Fire pit on edge: Well, in our case we lit a fire in the middle of the ice - fun was had by all!
*** as this is our most popular post on the blog, here is an update.
Same story for 2019, except the lake conditions have been perfect. Very little snow fell while the lake was freezing, probably none, so the outcome of the hockey rink is the best we've ever had.
Check out this from just an ATV shovel push to get the bulk off and then a sweep! The ice is 18 inches thick and can be seen right through, so just beautiful. Happy hockey out there all you dedicated fans!