Backyard rinks surge in popularity amid pandemic restrictions
DARTMOUTH, N.S. -- The pandemic hasn't stopped Maritimers from enjoying some safe family fun outside this winter.
On a brisk January morning, you can hear the sound of hockey sticks hitting the ice in one Dartmouth neighbourhood.
Grandpa Paul Gallagher never passes up the opportunity to shoot the puck around with son Blake and grandsons Kingston and Monty.
"This year, the rinks were shut down and so he was kinda just getting into skating and enjoying it," said Blake Gallagher. "So, we thought we have a small enough space that we could get something for him where he could still skate and enjoy it. So we put some boards together, through some plastic sheets down and filled it up and waited for the cold weather and we finally got some."
Many Canadians learned to skate on backyard ponds and rinks just like the one the Gallaghers made. For dad Blake, mornings on the backyard rink bring back fond memories of his childhood.
"We had one as a kid," Blake Gallagher said. "Me and my sisters would skate on the rink and this has been great, because it's a perfect size for King, and obviously Monty isn't skating yet, but the neighbours have been able to enjoy it, too. We wake up some mornings and the neighbours are on the ice, so it brings our small little community of people together."
Backyard rinks are popping up all over the Maritimes, including at the Dufour household in Hammonds Plains.
"It's really cool, 'cause whenever you wanna go skating, you just go anytime you want," said nine-year-old Mason Dufour. "When it's frozen, you don't have to pay to rent a rink, it's for free!"
Mason's dad, Jules Dufour, doesn't mind maintaining the ice at all hours of the day, making sure his son has a safe place to sharpen his hockey skills.
"It's a labour of love really," said Angela Dufour. "You really have to spend some time and keep the ice nice and smooth but if he's out there every day, it's all worth it in the end and it's good family fun!"
But if you don't have room for a backyard rink, don't worry.
The Links at Brunello in Timberlea is offering safe, physically distanced winter activities all season long.
"We decided to use our tennis court as the skating rink, we use all our cart paths as trails for skiing, walking, snow-shoeing," said Chris Carlaw, the golf operations manager at The Links at Brunello.
Carlaw says it's important to pre-book because things fill quickly, especially looking ahead to March Break.
Back in Dartmouth, as the Gallagher family prepares to step off the ice and start their day, they can't wait to lace up again.
Many families say they're already thinking about next year's backyard rink and what they can do to improve it.