From the cool air and the smell of the rubber floor to the strange satisfaction of watching the Zamboni clean the ice in anticipation of those first fresh tracks, I love everything about the hockey rink.
As a kid growing up in Calgary, hockey was my life. Call it a cliche childhood for a Canadian kid born in the 80’s, but for me, everything revolved around hockey.
I was skating at the age of 4 and dreaming of playing in the NHL by 5. My kindergarten yearbook says “professional hockey player” under what do you want to be when you grow up.
Winters were full of club hockey and sessions at the outdoor rink and summers were spent playing ball hockey in the alley or shooting pucks in the backyard, decimating my parents' fence.
Even though I've come to love the mild West Coast winters of my current home in Vancouver, I still find myself filled with longing for the winters of my childhood.
With my own young children now learning to skate, I'm enjoying something of a hockey renaissance. Getting back in the rink has been like jumping in a time machine as if I had never left.
Whether you're one to get outside to go skating, skiing, tobogganing, ice fishing, or snowmobiling or you simply like to curl up inside with a good book, how we enjoy the snowy season is a big part of life in Canada.
For me, skating and hockey are fundamental to my connection with winter.
Canada is home to the best ice infrastructure in the world. With over 2,800 indoor rinks, 5,000 outdoor rinks, manicured skating trails, and hundreds of thousands of frozen lakes and ponds, opportunities for skating are more accessible here than anywhere else in the world.
If you're travelling to a new destination this winter, I highly encourage you to rent a pair of skates and get out on the ice. It is an affordable and quintessential Canadian way to experience a new place.
I can't speak to every location in the country, but my hometown of Calgary has a great skating culture. Below are some of my favourite places to head out for a skate in and around the city.
Now as a parent myself, I've come to appreciate how dedicated my parents were and how much they sacrificed just so I could play hockey: saving up for registration fees, driving me the countless early morning practices, my dad volunteering to coach or help flood our local outdoor rink so I had a place to skate, and my mom stepping in to wash and manage the jerseys for my teams.
Their efforts fostered a love for a sport that helped me grow as a person and shaped my connections to winter, and to Canada. It gave me a love for the ice, one that I hope to pass down to my kids one day.