In my years of living in Colorado, downtown Denver has changed a lot. It started really with the addition of Coors Field, where the Colorado Rockies (that’s baseball, hockey fans, not the old NHL team of losers coached by Don Cherry) play. There were a lot of other changes before that, but the “renaissance” that downtown has had was marked by the arrival of the stadium. Frankly, I liked downtown Denver a lot more before the changes, when the corners were dark, and the paint was chipped, when the viaduct was still around, and the 2 am closing time crush of humanity of today was a mear trickle of people, most of whom you recognized. You had two competing art supply stores, and where P.F. Chang’s is, there was a horribly wonderful pool hall, whose name I forget, probably due to the fact that you had to be drunk to enjoy yourself. When the dance club on 14th and Market served Mickey’s (the malt liquor) ON TAP, and St. Mark’s Coffee was where the comic book artists would meet up for jam sessions. There were burned out buildings of character on every block, in need of repair, but also having their place amongst the restaurants and shops, most of which were independent and small, just like you want them.
There also used to be an outdoor skating rink downtown. You heard right, directly on the 16th St. mall. When it was cold enough, which was most of the winter, it was up and running, and shaded by the tall buildings all around it. I never did get to skate there. It was gone before I moved to Denver proper (I grew up in a place called Longmont, CO, about 30 miles north of Denver). This year, that’s probably a good thing.
As I write this, it’s 69 degrees outside. In late November. In Colorado. If you live here, or you know much about Colorado, that isn’t right. It should be cold, and it have snowed more than once or twice by now. If the skating rink were still around, my quality of life would be lowered right now, by virtue of it not being open. I would be angry, stomping my feet, yelling, and telling anyone I knew what I thought of that (hey, look at that, I am anyways).
Last week, I worked on a convention called “Greenbuild,” which is about building environmentally friendly and sustainable buildings, houses, and infrastructure. There was certainly an undertone of how to make money (which I believe holds back the cause more than anything), but the vast majority of it was about how to save the world we are destroying. The keynote speaker for the first day, William McDonough, was incredible. He talked for an hour about how to make the world a better place through better design and architecture. He talked about some of what it would take, from the simple to the drastic, to change the way things are going. He brought up points we should know about, but rarely do (like the PH balance of the oceans changing, which will kill off the shellfish population VERY soon if nothing is done. That’s the bottom of the food chain eliminated). Frankly, it was bleak, but at the same time uplifting, because steps can be taken. But what about hockey?
Last year, I attended a pond hockey tournament in Lake Placid, NY. Of course, it was to be held on Mirror Lake, which is what the downtown of Lake Placid surrounds. And the first day was. But the lake wasn’t frozen enough, and the puck would get lost under a puddle of water. A slapshot had the comical effect of splashing your opponent in a wave of freezing water, and the conditions for skating were virtually non-existent. Day two and the championship was moved to the Olympic Oval (outdoor speedskating).
Then, Kukla’s Korner (of course) pointed to an article about how global warming is killing the outdoor skating rinks of Canada. Of course, this is just small potatoes compared to the rest of the problems we are going to face, but it’s still part of it. If you want to see, check out the Yahoo mailing group about backyard rinks. I don’t have a rink, and I love to read it, as they enthusiasts get their rinks ready, and find the best bottom layers to keep the water in. It’s a great read, and the author and sports writer Jack Falla is a member. But let’s see how many get open this year.
So what is all this? This isn’t hockey, is it? This isn’t really what this blog is about, is it? You freaking bet it is, and here’s why. Players like Bobby Orr and Wayne Gretzky came from the backyards and ponds of the neighborhoods they grew up in. They found passion on the ice that was under the stars, not with coaches and roofs, and machines that make the ice. They shoveled the ice themselves, and then froze their asses off for the privilege. There are too many kids (and adults) who are going to miss out on the backyard rink, where there are no drills, or scores, or sometimes, even pucks and sticks, just pure skating fun. It’s going away, but it doesn’t have to. If you have never looked at the environmental problem we face today, let this be the statement that makes you want to care:
Global warming is killing hockey.
Now go do something about it.