You had me at ‘Zamboni’

Photo courtesy of Hastings Star Gazette/Chad Richardson.

I don’t have too many better childhood memories than trudging up the hill with my late brother into the woods across the street from my house, to a pond a mile or so in — or it seemed when our fingers and toes froze — to play pond hockey. There was nothing convenient about its location, but each day a few kids would make a similar journey from other directions and we’d play until dark.

You kids and your newfangled indoor hockey rinks have got it swell, but if it ain’t outdoors, it ain’t hockey.

Bob DeNoyer of Hastings clearly gets that.

A few years ago he took his then-kindergartener to the local rink, only to find the big kids controlled it.

A kid ought to be able to play hockey whenever he/she is in the mood.

So DeNoyer built his own rink, Chad Richardson of the Hastings Star Gazette reports today. From the sound of it, it’s the winter version of a field of dreams.

Before long, DeNoyer had hatched a plan to convert a portion of his rural Hastings backyard into a hockey rink. Now three years later, it’s safe to say the rink has taken shape. At 85-feet by 120-feet, it’s surrounded by bright white boards with custom logos. Lights 35-feet in the air illuminate the rink when the sun goes down. The old Hastings Civic Arena Zamboni resurfaces the ice a few times a day on weekends. A heated semi-trailer with cable television and benches gives youths a place to change into and out of their hockey gear. A construction trailer with heat and cable TV is outfitted with big windows and chairs for parents to watch while making pizzas in the oven. A bonfire pit keeps parents outside warm.

DeNoyer isn’t done, he said. There’s more he wants to keep adding, but for now it’s essentially heaven for youthful skaters in Hastings. All those coaches who have helped DeNoyer and his wife, Nicole, coach Mark and Jess are getting paid back with invitations to come out and skate every weekend.

More than a dozen volunteers helped. And it didn’t hurt that DeNoyer is in the construction business.

At 7 a.m. that Saturday morning, DeNoyer heard the sound of air brakes outside. And then the steady beeping of heavy equipment in reverse. He looked out his window and there was a massive bulldozer bearing down on that hill. Soon the site was leveled.

“I was like, ‘OK. We’re not messing around anymore,’” DeNoyer said.

It’s Nadeau who does a lot of the flooding with DeNoyer. He’ll bring his 4,000 gallon water truck out late at night to do the work.

“He’s probably made 40 trips with his water truck,” DeNoyer said. “We want to thank him for everything he’s done.”

Next weekend, a 50-gallon booya and a hog roast is planned at the rink as part of Hockey Day in Minnesota.

  • …and the Pond Hockey tournament at Lake Nokomis is next week as well.

    /Yes, I’ll be playing
    //We’ll get crushed

  • David

    This is simply a great story. Thanks for sharing!

  • Knute

    I built a curling rink in my backyard a couple of years ago. Nowhere near as elaborate as this setup, but nonetheless, a fun reason to get friends and family outside in the winter.

  • davehoug

    OK, if he was sued and won, but the cost to successfully win his lawsuit cost him dearly……SHOULD there be any legal way to say, “play at your own risk” and NOT be dragged into court???

    Society gains when sledding hills, beaches, rinks are available to the public. But few can afford to win a lawsuit that risks home and retirement savings.

    Even a back-yard pool used without permission brings legal risks. I am wondering if there can be some minimum standard of safety, beyond which every lawsuit is dismissed right away. I am not thinking of fees or waivers such as ski-resorts, but ‘no charge’ risky fun.