Saturday, December 13, 2008
At home this weekend, visiting my folks in the house I grew up in. Twenty seven below this morning and enough snow that it would lead the National if this were in Toronto.
You walk outside and it takes your breath away. Your nostrils stick together and when you spit it hits the frozen ground and bounces. The sky goes on forever, black black black and the stars look like they are sitting right on top of you. Its dark at 4 and it seems like you are on another planet, silent except for the squeak of your boots on the packed snow. Even the cars are silent, gliding past like ghosts, giving the odd groan in the cold.
Just two streets over there's the old playground rink. It was the centre of our winters growing up. Every neighbourhood in the city had one when we were kids. Nearly every kid in the city played playground hockey growing up until about twenty years ago when the city introduced an indoor recreational league. Indoor hockey killed the playground leagues. Faced with standing on snowbanks surrounding the rinks in thirty below weather and standing in the lobby of a heated arena parents made a pretty easy choice.
I played and coached in the playground leagues. It was crazy. Whatever the weather you would play. Thirty below and you would play and the parents would be out there cheering. I coached seven year olds and they were out there, no matter how cold. Maybe five minutes in the shack to warm up between periods and then back out, shivering on the benches which were boxed in by thin plywood, waiting for their turn to spin around the ice in front of the cheering crowd. When it snowed heavily the parents would come down between periods and shovel the ice. After the games it was into the shack to change out of skates and drink hot chocolate from the canteen.
And every winter there would be the carnival, a weekend which included hockey and ringette tournaments (you'd invite two patsies and a close rival to guarantee a riproaring final), a party for the parents one night in the shack, games of all sorts, raffles, barbeques (my dad and my best friend's dad always took a shift), music playing and everyone in the neighbourhood out celebrating, forgetting about winter for one weekend at least.
A lot of the old rinks are torn down now although this one is still standing. I'll probably walk the dog over and see if the neighbourhood dads have flooded it for their sons and daughters just as our dads once did, maintaining it through the winter. When we were growing up we spent our weekends there, our evenings there.
Things move on and that's fine. They have to. That is the way of the world.
But the playground rink was a damn good thing and this city misses it, I think. I certainly do.
Posted by Black Dog at 6:00 PM