Update: December 17th, 2008 – In honor of the deep-freeze in Vancouver right now I’ve promoted this post from January 15, 2008 to the front page of the site.
I think I’m pretty lucky to have grown up on the West Coast during a time when rivers and streams would actually freeze over in the winter. My dad would pile us kids into our little red van and we’d head out to a pond, river, or flooded field in Surrey for an afternoon of ice skating. I never had my own skates but my dad had about 4 pairs from when he was little and it just so happened that they fit my brother, sister, and I in perfect increments. We’d lace up the old brown leather skates and step out through snow-flattened blackberry thickets while peeking down at the pitch-black abyss beneath the ice. It seemed to go on forever, even if it was just half a foot deep.
We’d go over to Fry’s Corner (176th and Fraser Hwy), the Nicomekl river or any other field that was notorious for flooding, then freezing. The ice was always terribly bumpy and most of the time there were tufts of wheat or tall grass poking through that would catch your blade and trip you up. We’d see people playing hockey and would sometimes play a pickup game ourselves using whatever we found that would resemble a puck. Often my brother, sister and friends would all have sticks meanwhile I’d be given a broom or twig with which to defend the goal (the usual position for the youngest sibling).
Sometimes over at the park, the local firehall would bring out their hoses and purposely flood the lacrosse box. The neighbourhood kids all sat along the boards with bated breath, just waiting for that water to freeze over and reveal a makeshift rink. The first one to come back in the morning and report that it was a success was greeted by cheers of heroic proportions.
There aren’t many places these days where you can find an icicle, let alone a puddle that’s frozen over. The next best thing would be to check out the ice rinks in your community but those indoor arenas just aren’t the same. Even though Atlantic Canada sees consistent winters that are perfect for such activities, I’m afraid the good ol’ pond hockey days of Metro Vancouver are behind us. I’m glad I at least have those memories of sliding out onto a natural rink with puffs of breath surrounding my toqued head like a halo.