If you build it… they can skateIt doesn’t take the Stender kids long to get ready to go to the neighborhood ice rink. It’s in their back yard.
By: Crystal Dey, Alexandria Echo Press
It doesn’t take the Stender kids long to get ready to go to the neighborhood ice rink. It’s in their back yard.
Five years ago, Kim and Chad Stender added a new feature to the winter scene in their back yard. It started as a little ice-rink and continued to grow over the years. The rink is now fully equipped for hockey games – even at night.
The 50 by 115 foot rink is assembled when it gets cold enough for ice, usually in November. Chad begins construction of the rink at night when the temperatures drop low enough to freeze the water.
“It takes a few days to get the ice built up,” Kim said.
Not only have the Stenders added boards and lights to the rink – they have a Zamboni. Chad crafted a homemade Zamboni to smooth the ice and maintain it throughout the season. When it snows, the kids pitch in to plow the rink.
Jakob Stender, 9-years-old, plays hockey on the Olympic Red Mite team. His 8-year-old sister, Brookelyn, plays on the girls’ U8 hockey team.
“I wish they had hockey for girls when I was younger,” Kim said.
She said her kids are much faster and more skilled on the ice than she and her husband. “We actually play better in our boots than skates,” she said.
The backyard rink has received encouragement from neighbors. Kim said one enjoys watching the kids and their friends skate; another neighbor’s children skate on the rink and the other neighbor has actually started their own rink.
The Stenders entered a contest on foxsportsnorth.com to compete with other Minnesota rinks. They didn’t win this year but there’s always next year.
“We knew there are a lot of people out there who make back yard rinks,” Kim said. “People really go all out to make the perfect back yard rink.”
The warm weather this winter has caused some ice to melt early but it’s held up pretty well, Kim said. On the up-side, kids were able to skate without snow-pants and jackets some days.
Contrary to popular belief, the ice isn’t that hard on the grass, Kim said. “We’ve had to re-seed a few spots here and there, but for the most part, it hasn’t damaged the grass that much,” she said.
As spring approaches and green grass sprouts up where the skates used to glide, the Stenders will be piling up the boards from the rink and saying goodbye to another winter of back yard hockey games – until November anyway.