I have two young kids, 6 and 7, both boys and both play hockey. Here in central Ohio USA, we don't get the chance to play outdoors - it just doesn't stay cold enough to skate on ponds any more.
After doing some research, I realized that if I built a rink that was very level and contained only a few inches of water, I might be able to get about 20 to 30 days of good ice.
I hired ‘Wee Dig It’ to come out and grade out a 60' x 40' area in our fenced back yard. I purchased 1/2" pressure treated plywood, 2’ x 2" lawn stakes and a 60’ x 40’ 12 ml tarp. I cut the plywood down to 8" boards, put hay down over the newly graded yard, set up the boards, put down the tarp and started to fill with water. The grading work was done to plus or minus an inch, which means I have 2-4" of water (ice). We were skating 30 hrs. later.
The initial timing was perfect! We had a cold stretch of 11 days below freezing. I am guessing that we had over 100 different friends and hockey buddies over to play in those first few days. None of the young kids had ever played hockey outside before and they were all so excited and my wife and kids had a blast!
Since those first few days, we have only had a total of 7 days of good ice. With those 7 days comes a ton of hard work. I will try not to overstate my efforts, but I bet that I have put about 200 hrs. of labor into the rink in just over a months time.
I think I am officially a backyard rink rat, I am addicted to it! With my struggles to manage mother nature and my ice rink, I have begun to seriously consider a Chiller system for next year. Right now, I am aiming for a 10 ton Trane unit with a roll out mat system. My self justification is that it is about the same cost as a pool and I think we would get 4-5 months of ice time versus 3 months with a pool.
I can tell you, nothing beats an outdoor hockey pick up game under the lights with the snow falling, this is what dreams are made of...