The Good Ol' Hockey Game

By Aubrey Reine

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.

Aubrey at age 6

Aubrey at age 6

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.

Winter is a defining feature of life in Canada. How we make the most of our colder months is rooted to Canadian identity. 

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.

Photo: Travel Alberta / Roth and Ramberg

Photo: Travel Alberta / Roth and Ramberg

Outdoor Rinks

With over 150 outdoor ice surfaces, there is no shortage of spots to go skating outside in the winter. Calgary has an amazing distribution of hockey rinks across the city and it's usually not a far drive to find a game of shinney on any given night. For those just wanting to skate, there are ample flooded skating ponds or even a refrigerated outdoor surface. Downtown at Olympic Plaza (built for the 1988 Olympics), you can find a map list of all the city and community-run outdoor rinks.

Photo: Travel Alberta / John Price

Photo: Travel Alberta / John Price

Skating Trails

If you're not into hockey or skating laps around a rink, there are skating trails laid out in a couple of spots around town. Bowness Park has a skating lagoon and 1.6 km of scenic trails located next to the Bow River. In south Calgary, you can find 730 metes of maintained skating trails that are beautifully lit up at night.

Photo: Erik McRitchie @erikmcr

Photo: Erik McRitchie @erikmcr

Scenic Lakes

Drive an hour or two west of Calgary and you will come across some of the most scenic skating spots in the world. Try popular Lake Louise for the ice sculptures and mountain-laden background, or for those Instagram-worthy shots, try Abraham Lake, where you can see bubbles in the ice caused by methane gas released by decaying plant matter below the water.

Photo: Colin Way

Photo: Colin Way

Olympic Oval

Built for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games, the Oval at the University of Calgary is a world-renowned speed skating venue. Master ice-making techniques and the altitude at which it sits combine to create "the fastest ice in the world". It is used for training and competitions by speed skating teams from all over the world, but it is also regularly open for indoor public skating. It's a wonderfully unique venue to try out if you're in town. Gear rentals are offered on-site for both hockey and speed skates.

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.

Aubrey Reine

Aubrey is the Product Director at Landsby. He grew up in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies and now makes his home in Vancouver with his wife and two kids. He has explored more of Canada than all his Landsby colleagues put together, is a champion of lesser-known Canadian destinations and is always excited to head out on a new adventure. 

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Photo: Travel Alberta/Lauren Bath

Photo: Travel Alberta/Lauren Bath