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This Is the End … of the Backyard Rink

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I get distracted. Last week, we had Comcast at the house on Monday all day for an upgrade, including adding a new home security system. Work was a mess. Outlook was down. No e-mail! And the Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament was getting started. I love the tourney and watch as much as I can.

I don’t know if you know this, but tickets aren’t too hard to get day of game for the tourney. The tickets that haven’t been sold prior to the game go on sale an hour before puck drop. Lines can be long, so you might have to get in line an hour early. But I’ve never missed out on tickets when I’ve tried to go. So, I decided to take my son and his friend to the quarterfinal AA evening games at the last minute.

And it was there at the X that I finally realized it was Thursday! And I hadn’t submitted anything to the Hockey Wilderness for the week. Whoops! I’m thankful that the editors at the HW are so patient. And I apologize to our HW readers for missing my slot.

The Wild’s in the middle of a bit of a rough patch. The team’s record is 2-5 in the month of March with the two wins against the Sharks and Panthers, and losses against Columbus, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Chicago and Washington. But Boudreau was right when he told the beat writers that they were making a “mountain out of a molehill” during the scrum after the loss to the Capitals. That’s a run against good teams either solidly in the playoffs or pushing to get into the top eight. Despite the outcomes, and outside of a brutal final 15 minutes against the Capitals, the Wild has generally controlled the run of play, including shots, scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances during the slump. The most-relevant criticism of this year’s version of the Wild has been the poor percentage of shots for and against. And the Wild has generally been better than its opponents over those past seven games. The sky is not falling. This is not the end or the beginning of the collapse.

Honestly, I think the sphincter tightening around this team stems from the local press. The shot metrics over 60 games weren’t great and the PDO has been high. But the scoring chances and expected goals have favored the Wild all season. The Wild is second in the Western Conference and second in the Central Division to a flawed Hawks team with a game in hand. The top-nine is the strongest it has ever been. The fourth line is a liability, but Coach Double-B is well aware. There’s depth on the blue line and strength in net.

So, this is not the end of your Minnesota Wild, but this is the end of the season for backyard rinks. I wrote about my issues with my backyard rink the first week of January. And that was the last really cold week of the winter. We had a couple above-freezing temperatures in January, but we generally saw below-freezing temperatures overnight, which kept the ice solid. I applied a secondary flood to add a couple inches of ice to the lower spots during the month of January. But it definitely wasn’t as cold as I hoped. My kids got the most number of skates in January.

February was noodles. We got in a solid skate on Super Bowl Sunday, February 5th. But the middle to end of February was a total mess. Not only did we see temperatures in the 50s and 60s for highs, but, even worse, there were overnight temps above zero. At one point, all of my ice had melted and I was shocked that the liner was able to hold. Basically, I had a pretty crummy swimming pool in my backyard.

But it eventually froze again. Beyond the liner being able to hold the water without leaking, the most surprising was that my boards were able to hold up despite the fact that my ice was nothing but water for a couple days in February. I’ll try to post some pictures, but my boards moved from leaning toward the ice to leaning away by at least 12 inches. Also, I rely on my posts holding up by being frozen into the ground and the grass was softer than ever in February. I considered giving up and draining out the rink, but I’m glad I didn’t, because the kids ended up getting some time on the ice at the end of February and March.

I bought my first two rink liners from Gertens and I have nothing but good things to say about Gertens. But I bought my current rink liner through Amazon (Kotap was the brand.) and I think it’s the best liner I’ve purchased so far. Not only did it hold up through a complete thaw, but I think I might be able to get another winter out of it.

The boards on the top left are the ones that bowed out about 12 inches, but ultimately held. There’s actually a ridge you can see where the ice is at a lower level.

The snow on the left is from the last snowfall and it is covering up the liner. When the water melted, it moved from the left side of this picture to the right, nearly blowing out my boards.

In total, I bet the UW family got about four solid weeks of skating on strong ice this winter and about four additional weeks of boot hockey/shooting pucks. That might not seem like much when you factor in the time and effort to put the thing up, not to mention a couple hundred dollars added to the water bill. But I’m sure I’ll be back at it in December regardless.

I’m going to make some time to shoot some pucks this morning before the strong March sun starts to melt the top layer and we’ll start breaking it down and draining this weekend. This is the end of outdoor hockey season in Minnesota, but the Wild still have a long way to go.