Denver and the Ice

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.


  1. May I suggest placing the outdoor rinks on the west side of tall buildings where they would remain shaded during much of the winter day.

    What’s hurt rinks in town here is a shrinking city / public works budget. When costs are cut, the first thing to go are the rinks. The irony is that crime rates rise when kids have less to do, aproven theory. It’ll be a cold day in hell when any level of government takes a hard look at what teenagers do when bored, and associates the two facts. Minor sports ought to be free for kids of lower income families.

    A change to the notion of sports being only for the rich, at this rate, global warming will toast us all before anyone with power to change how kids are raised will do anything about it.

  2. Right, R/C, nothing can be done now. Buncha crap. Yes, there is something that can be done. Stop ignoring the things that are being shoved down our throats.

    Putting a rink on the right side of a building isn’t the answer. But it’s a nice start. Good luck on that.

  3. When I was growing up, there were two dozen rinks scattered about town. Today, we have six that are hardly used.

    Too many kids on Play Station?

  4. Playstation. Scourge of Canada.

    And what does that have to do with global warming? Total distraction.

    Look, the lack of use of rinks in your town have little to due to the fact that we can’t “grow” one here in Denver. And there was a time we could.

    If you are closing rinks for lack of use, that is too bad. But if you can’t freeze them, that has nothing to do with attendance. If the rink in the Boston Commons went away, you bet people would care.

    BTW, ever read Home Game by Ken Dryden?

  5. Write a congressman about signing the Kyoto Global Warning treaty. Have the USA get on board. And then practice as much energy conservation as you can, even if you are from a country that has signed the treaty. The more we share in the responsibility for our earth, the better chance we have of saving the shrimp in the summer and savouring the ice in the winter. Now is the time to act. Thank you Tapeleg for the reminder.

  6. I haven’t gotten to home game yet, though I own two copies of “the Game”. There was a time I thought both books were the same! “The Game” is considered by many as the best book ever written on hockey. How does “Home Game” stand up?

  7. You know, The Game has never been number one in my book (book, HA!). That can go to Open Net, or They Don’t Play Hockey In Heaven. The Game is a fine book, but…

    Have you read Hockey Towns by William Boyd? A nice book, but so far, Home Game is better. Yes, it has pictures, and that makes my life simpler (ha ha), but Home Game is better writen.

    The Game is the NHL. Home Game is what we care about… Hockey. (I guess I may have to write a review.)

    And BTW, the reminder is fine, but it hopefully just makes the point that the things we care about are just as risk as the things we don’t.

    What is it about skating outdoors that is so much better than skating in an indoor rink? I feel a post coming on.

  8. BTW, I posted words from you at my blog that I have been saving since September. I was very proud of myself, and of you, when you said it. I kept it, with the intention of one day slapping it on my blog in the form of a great declaration. I must say that no one has said it better!

    Though we may not always agree on everything, and probably wouldn’t want to anyway, I’m glad to know you. Thanks for such inspiring thoughts and insights. Check it out!

  9. I guess I MUST search out “Home Game” then. Hope it doesn’t PMO as much as “Game Misconduct” did. I’ve a feeling it might!

    Dryden is actually running for the Liberal leadership in Canada right now. Amongst 7 candidates, he seems to be placed 5th for now. He is way too long winded for many to grasp. He outsmarts himself in lots of peoples minds.

    It might be enough for me to have a former NHL ref, and an NHL father, for mayor of our city. Talking to Bob Kilger about global warming would be like talking the theory of relativity to a Playboy Bunny!

  10. Of course we don’t agree, your team has my goalie. A STEAL!!!

    Dryden is too smart for hockey, as far as the sports mentality is concerned. We need more smart people to lead us, as a whole. Look at G.W.Bush. likeable to many, but not smart. Isn’t it time we game the smart a chance? But Dryden did win not too long ago in a smaller scale (know many Americans who know anything about Canadian politics?)

    Dryden is way smart, and The Game shows that. Home Game shows his heart.

  11. You can have him back come the March trade deadline!

  12. I’ll be the shit disturber. I don’t buy into your concern over global warming and hockey. We are not doomed by global warming. In fact, it could change at any given time and it probably will!
    We don’t have a concern for backyard rinks in Canada. There are plenty of them and we can still make and use them, but unfortunately, RC is right. It is a computer generation now, and they’d rather play hockey on the computer or whatever else.
    I would say, don’t buy into this global warming bullshit.
    There were instances even up north here where I live that I thought maybe the hippies were onto something. Our winters were getting shorter and warmer gradually. But then this year it is fucking cold up here, and we have more snow now in November than we have had in over 15 years at least.
    Ok, I’m not saying that taking steps to clean the environment is a bad idea, but I just don’t buy into the doom and gloom of it all.

  13. Zan:

    3 points:

    If you don’t buy into global warming because it’s cold in northern Canada, please don’t run for office.

    Computer games and water don’t freeze are not the same thing. That goes for R/C too.

    If you doubt my sincerity, well, go for it. I love writing shit for public discourse I don’t believe. Whoo-hoo (that was sarcasm, just to be clear). It’s up to you.

    Also, read Home Ice by Jack Falla. He’s having issues freezing the rink lately. After reading his book, you can see why that’s kind of sad.

  14. Sorry dude, I still won’t buy into it.
    But hey, look who’s making money on all the environmentally-friendly merchandise!
    I work for a company who is constantly under scrutiny because our dryers emit smoke, and not much of it I might add. But the fucking environmentalists are never satisfied and hound us at every turn.
    For us to increase our environmental friendliness would put us under because ‘scrubbers’ which lower emissions are expensive as hell.
    Where does Jack Falla live? On the the wet warm west coast? From what I’ve seen,inland, there is absolutely no problem making skating rinks in Canada. The issue doesn’t fly with me.
    But we can agree to disagree.

  15. Zan: Jack Falla lives in the Boston area.

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