I’d probably have the same response as 6-year-old Kaleb Allen if I had a mini hockey rink in my backyard.
“It’s really, really, really, really fun,” he said.
My father, however, wasn’t born in Vancouver like Sheboygan’s Brian Allen was.
“Growing up in Canada, that’s all you did after school is play street hockey,” he said.
Allen got the idea after helping his good friend, Steve Falconer, put up a much bigger rink in his Kohler backyard for years.
He was going to set up his own last year but it got too cold too soon, so the rink made its debut this year.
“It’s a lot of fun because you can’t always just go to the rink to practice or do whatever,” said Allen’s other son, Blake, who is a sophomore on the Sheboygan co-op hockey team. “But having one right outside in your backyard is a lot of fun.”
Allen’s wife, Marla, didn’t think her husband was nuts for doing it, either.
“She’s a big hockey mom,” Brian said. “She helped put the liner out and put the boards up.”
The Allen’s backyard is about a quarter-acre and the rink is 25-by-50 feet with two goals and 18-inch borders to stop the sliding puck.
Those boards were put up first, back in late October.
In mid-December, the liner was put down and the next day Brian used his garden hose for 14 hours to fill the rink with water.
“I’d check on it through the night,” Brian said. “I’d get up like every hour and a half, go and make sure it wasn’t spilling out everywhere or the water wasn’t too high and the hose freezes underneath.”
After two or three days, the water was frozen and the ice was five or six inches thick.
Kaleb, dressed in a full Pittsburgh Penguins uniform, got to play goaltender for only two days though because the weather quickly warmed up.
“He’s very upset,” Brian said last week. “You get frustrated. My wife and I were joking, normally this time of year we’re happy because it’s 40-50 degrees out. This is awesome. But then you put a rink in your yard and spend all the time and effort, and the kids want to get out, it’s like, ‘c’mon cold weather.’ You’re praying for cold weather.”
Before the snow came, the ice rink was 70% water and became the city’s biggest bird bath.
“There’s deer droppings in the yard, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re drinking out of it,” Brian said. “There’s a lot of droppings right around the edge of it now.”
Even though it is not fun using a snowblower or shovel to get the snow off the ice, the Allens plan on doing it again next year.
Brian, a volunteer at the Haven Fire Department, might even borrow a truck used for training to water the rink next time.
“When it’s nighttime, we put lights around it so it looks kind of neat,” he said. “You get a little bit of snowflakes coming down, there’s nothing better.”