Outdoor hockey rinks have been a staple in Canadian neighborhoods since the invention of the game. Simply shoveling off a pond and throwing sticks into the middle of the ice ignited what has become a winter passion ever since.
As communities moved toward a more structured recreation mandate, outdoor rinks were commissioned and built to allow green-space use in the winter. While pond use is beginning to be discouraged due to safety reasons, green spaces and seasonal summer parks are the ideal location for temporary pleasure and hockey rink construction in the winter.
Typically these parks require the installation of a “park” or “rink water service”. These connections began to be installed in parks in the 1960’s, and was a small service connection to the municipal water supply, with a single underground steel pipe that connected to a typical household tap in a wooden box. A garden hose and sprinkler were connected to the tap and staff would move the sprinkler around the park.
Unfortunately, a lot of these units have either been vandalized, broken or abandoned due to health and safety concerns, especially by the utilities provider for assurance that the water source remains uncontaminated. Today, more and more developers and communities across the Prairies are being requested to give young people and outdoor enthusiasts a place to play, even in the winter months.
On February 13, 2015 in Prince George, British Columbia, a meeting of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers responsible for Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation took place. At this meeting, the Framework for Recreation in Canada 2015 was endorsed by Provincial and Territorial Ministers (excluding Quebec) and supported by the Government of Canada.
This meeting outlined a vision that simply states, “Everyone engaged in meaningful, accessible recreation experiences that foster individual well-being, Well being of Natural and Built environments as well as community well being”. The goals are simple:
- Foster active, healthy living through recreation.
- Increase inclusion and access to recreation for populations that face constraints to participation.
- Help people connect to nature through recreation.
- Ensure the provision of supportive physical and social environments that encourage participation in recreation and build strong, caring communities.
- Ensure the continued growth and sustainability of the recreation field.
In light of these objectives, RinkWater has taken action by reinventing outdoor winter play.
After seeing a need to encourage hockey and pleasure skating once again, we created the “RinkWater”, a self-contained rink-construction box that is permanently mounted in a green space or park. This unit allows park staff and community volunteers the ability to access a potable water source for building rinks 24-7.
The construction and maintenance of hockey and pleasure rinks requires dedication, observation, selflessness and a volunteer spirit that pushes the barriers of traditional “me too” or “hands up” participation. While many in the houses surrounding the rinks are curled up in front of the fireplace reading a book or watching the game (likely with a beverage in their hand), rink supervisors and volunteers are braving the bone-chilling cold, creating a Canadian tradition one liter of freezing water at a time.
This volunteer spirit and work ethic is one to be fostered and encouraged, however, sometimes it is easily taken for granted.
While many fire departments and truck watering systems constantly haul water to each rink, there is a feeling of anxiety when left to volunteers and staff to organize this endeavor. RinkWater’s focus was to put the control back into the hands of those who carry Canadian Hockey on their shoulders and constantly give of their ability, knowledge and time to ensure the neighborhood rink is one of pride.
By including keyless entry, a heater, hose reel, backflow preventer, water meter, lighting and hose, all the items needed to flood the rink are at the fingertips of the volunteers. With less reliance on third party contractors or someone to allow access to the tools needed to flood, the ice can get made on a more flexible schedule and easier than ever before.
Hockey Canada recognized the need to get back to our roots. The RinkWater prototype was shown to Hockey Canada in November of 2015. With raised eyebrows, Hockey Canada brass was impressed with the thought and potential for once again seeing outdoor hockey and interest in the sport resuscitated at a “grassroots” level. RinkWater has since signed a licensing agreement with Hockey Canada who supports our initiative. We are excited about working with the best group in the world for fostering love for the game across all ages and genders.
Following the mandate set out by the Government of Canada, RinkWater is confident that as a group, we can aid the volunteer spirit, reviving outdoor ice construction volunteers and bringing back the focus on safe outdoor rink development.
And to all those volunteers that work tirelessly to keep our kids busy and enjoying winter, we tip our toques to you and your amazing generosity!