Only Lame Scolds Dislike Backyard Hockey Rinks

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Temperatures are dropping across the continent, leading to 99 bad outcomes and a singular good one: the construction of backyard hockey rinks. There is something, dare I say, magical, about constructing a rink in a backyard or nearby pond for everybody in the neighborhood to play in. It’s practically the only good thing about living north of Los Angeles.

But because we are an unworthy species, there inexplicably exists people who are against backyard rinks. Homeowners associations, neighborhood sourpusses, and old cranks. Wherever there are backyard rinks, there are backyard rink scolds.

In ritzy Poolesville, Md., Mark Kohn spent almost $40,000 and 400 hours building a backyard rink. He did so as a way of coming to terms with the death of his stepdaughter—a big hockey fan—from a respiratory disease, and to honor her memory. He posts times for the synthetic rink on Facebook for anybody who wants to play, and because Poolesville is rural the rink doesn’t bother anybody. None of those facts prevented Montgomery County officials from trying to shut it down, however:

“It’s a lovely idea, and we understand it’s a labor of love, but it has to be the right place for it,” said Diane Schwartz Jones, with Montgomery County’s department of permitting services.

The problem: The rink, set on a rolling field of grass in his own backyard and built atop dozens of wooden shipping pallets, is in the agricultural reserve, which allows homes but isn’t zoned for public uses. County officials issued Kohn a violation and told him to take down lights above the rink and a Facebook page where he posted skate times and other news.


Zoning laws are good and necessary—nobody wants their kids going to school next to a power plant, or for a gas station to move in next door—but come. the fuck. on! Read about how much the community enjoys the rink:

In just a couple weeks, the rink has spawned new friendships. Kids who only see each other at school find themselves on the same team. Town businesses have offered to pay for additional synthetic ice to make the rink larger. And residents have been generous with donations, dropping dollars into a giant replica of the Stanley Cup.

“Marc really made this place into a great gathering place,” said Steve Smith, slipping around in his shoes with his 10-year-old son Soren.


Kohn is far from alone in running afoul of enemies of pond hockey freedom, of course. In Stillwater, Minn.—even in Minnesota!—Jeff and Jacquelyn Cameron have tried very hard to squash everybody’s fun, and SOMEBODY went so far as to vandalize the neighborhood pond hockey rink.

Every winter neighbors flood the retention pond behind their and the Camerons’ houses, and the first winter the Camerons lived in it they attempted to shut the rink down. First they complained that homeowners association rules didn’t allow ice skating, and if you’ve had any experience with the uptight cretins that typically run HOAs, you legitimately won’t believe what happened next:

Two things then happened: The matter of winter pond fun was put to a vote and unanimously approved by the homeowners. The association then hired lawyers to amend the bylaws accordingly.


That didn’t stop the Camerons, of course, who came up with a potpourri of gripes:

They accused pond lovers of using city water to flood the surface, which, in turn, hurt wildlife. Snowblowers clearing the ice belched exhaust that exacerbated Mrs. Cameron’s and their daughter’s auto-immune diseases. Evening activity, they added, affected the family’s ability to get a good night’s rest.


After their complaints fell on deaf ears, last week some anonymous person poured sand on the rink in an attempt to ruin it. It only took a single morning to get the rink back in playing shape.

Look, it can no doubt at times be annoying living near a neighborhood ice rink. The best solution is to remember that you are a part of a community of people, requiring compromise and sacrifice, and that a rink is a huge net positive for the neighborhood. And if that doesn’t do it for you, be reasonable! Ask your neighbors if they can stop playing an hour earlier, or only play late a couple of nights a week. Ask that, as much as possible, they avoid using snowblowers to clear the ice, or use shovels when up against your backyard. Definitely don’t try and find any excuse you can to shut it down, to the point where people can’t actually tell—and don’t actually care—if you have any legitimate complaints.


When you’re fair-minded and treat people considerately, they usually respond in kind.

h/t Mike & Jon

[Washington Post/City Pages]


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