The article below was contributed by Robert McLeman, Colin Robertson, and Haydn Lawrence,
geographers at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.
When the NHL asked us to contribute a blog posting about outdoor rinks, we were totally stoked. Not only do we make and skate on outdoor rinks, we study them through a project called RinkWatch (www.rinkwatch.org). We’re environmental researchers at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada, and we use information about outdoor rinks to track winter climate trends. We’re also interested in learning about the types of people who build rinks, why they do it, and how our communities benefit from having rinks in backyards and neighbourhood parks.
Three winters ago we launched RinkWatch with a simple plan: we ask people who have a rink to pin its location on our website’s interactive map, and report the skating conditions throughout the winter. So far, we’ve had reports from over 1,500 rinks from across North America (and a few from Scandinavia, too). We pool this data and use a geospatial and numerical modelling techniques to work out what rinks are telling us about the weather.
Why do we do this? Because scientists warn that winters are becoming shorter and milder, and that the backyard rink may soon become an endangered species. If that’s the case, we need to monitor the health of outdoor rinks, just as we do with any other endangered species. We must track their numbers and condition, and learn how changes in the environment are affecting them. And most importantly, we need to get people talking about how to prevent them from disappearing.
Since it’s only our third winter, it’s too soon to say what will be the long-term impacts of climate change on rinks. One thing we can already see from our data is that -5oC (23oF) is the magic number; when average daily temperatures get warmer than this, rinks quickly become unskateable. We can see this in the graph below, which we created by combining RinkWatch data with weather station data for Montreal and Toronto. The graph shows how temperature affects the probability that people will be skating on outdoor rinks. When the average daily temperature is -10oC or colder, you can be almost 100% certain people will be outside skating. But as temperatures get warmer than -5oC, the likelihood people will be skating drops below 50%.
What this means is that, if average winter temperatures rise above -5oC but remain colder than zero Celsius, outdoor rinks could disappear from our neighborhoods but the snow and slush will stick around. Something else we can see from the graph is that, as the temperature gets warmer, people in Montreal are quicker to stop skating than are people in Toronto. It looks like Torontonians are more willing to put up with poor ice conditions than skaters in Montreal, who tend to get more skating days each winter given the relatively colder temperatures. If winter warming trends continue, Montreal skaters may have to accept the softer, slower ice more common to outdoor rinks in the other ‘Original Six’ cities.
One other important thing we’ve learned through RinkWatch is how fantastic rink makers are. A survey we did last year found that people make rinks because they want to create a neighborhood gathering place – somewhere the kids can have fun, hang out with their friends, and maybe play some shinny. Rink makers also like to share photos and tips with one another, as you can see from the user forums on the RinkWatch website and on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/RinkWatch).
So, if you have a rink or know someone that does, check out the RinkWatch website. And even if you don’t have a rink, please still check us out and explore the science of outdoor rinks.
It is with a heavy heart we must say goodbye to Nick Etchells who passed away on April 6, 2022. Nick was Director of Dasher Board Systems for Global Sport Resources and had a passion for the work he did. Nick was primarily involved with customer relations and project management but also had an influence on design, fabrication, and installation. Nick was also a part of the Rink of Dreams Society, which assists communities in finding the resources necessary to build new outdoor rink facilities.
Nick’s wonderful and unique sense of humor and approachable personality, dedication to his work, and his willingness to help others made him a valuable and loved member of our team.
Nick will be deeply missed.
Did you know Global Sport Resources does custom hybrid rinks and riding arenas. We can even source specialized equestrian fill based on your needs. Call 1.877.477.8007 for a quote!
The Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies (AAAS)
The Spring Classic Hunter/Jumper Show is this weekend.
In honour of Brain Awareness Week (Mar. 14 - 20, 2022), which is about focusing the spotlight on brain research and the progress made in that area of study, it seemed fitting to discuss the importance of protecting our brains in sports, especially in high contact sports like hockey. Believe it or not, according to a Sage Journals’ article entitled “Comparing concussion rates as reported by hockey Canada with contact events as observed across minor ice-hockey age categories” published Jul. 14, 2020, “amateur hockey players” were only required to wear approved helmets as of 1978 in Canada. With hockey being such a heavy contact sport, it is no small wonder that helmets have been ruled as a necessary piece of equipment that should be worn by hockey players of all ages, whether amateur or professional.
While the addition of the helmet, often with a face shield, as required safety equipment worn by players has likely reduced the opportunity for serious injury, a study referred to in the aforementioned article suggests that at least one-fifth of all hockey players will suffer a concussion at some point while playing the sport; however, it is possible the actual number is higher as many concussions are thought to go unreported. Additionally, another study mentioned in the same article suggests that of the 20 percent, hockey players between the ages of nine and 17 years make up about ten to 12 percent of those reported concussions, a number that seems too high in an age group that is in the middle of important brain development. The article concludes with the warning that brain injury in players within this age group may lead to limitations in the further development of their cognitive abilities, and suffering multiple concussions could very well lead to permanent neurological difficulties and disabilities.
How To Reduce the Chances of Concussions?
When it comes to playing hockey, it is unrealistic to suggest there may be a way to eliminate the chances of a player suffering a concussion, but it is possible to reduce the possibility of such an injury. The first obvious step is to wear a helmet. An article entitled “Heads Up: Concussion in Hockey” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers additional suggestions, including ensuring that players play safely and by the rules, that players do not hit other players in the head and wear the proper and approved equipment specially designed for playing hockey. Each player should also ensure they maintain their equipment and replace anything that is damaged or may no longer function as it should.
When it comes to safety of hockey players, especially those under the legal age, it is important to educate them in the importance of wearing the proper helmet and equipment that fits. It is also imperative for players to play by the rules, respect other players, and know where to draw the line on aggressive play. Hockey games for youth have stricter rules to help protect the well-being of such young players, but all leagues have rules that must be followed. Even games played for recreation must see rules followed to ensure everyone ultimately has a good time, can do their best and compete, and can go home after each game without serious injury that could impact the rest of their lives.
Canada Safety Council
Bauer, CCM, Warrior
Spring is almost here, but will you still be able to use your rink? Global Sport Resources specializes in multi-season turn-key recreation packages, and with the help of our group of companies we can do it all; design, engineer, fabricate, and install your project. The options are endless! The multi-season facility can be used for ice hockey, skating, inline and ball hockey, lacrosse, badminton, tennis, basketball, pickle ball, and so much more. If you have a vision in mind, contact us to talk about making it a reality.
Congratulations to Parkdale on opening the first fully accessible outdoor rink in Calgary. Global Sport Resources is proud to have been a part of this project.
Congratulations to the Town of Millet on their new rink! Another rink built with Legacy Series Dasher boards by Global Sports Resources.
Global Sports Resources has three different series to choose from, including Grassroots Series, Heritage Series, and Legacy Series.