Outdoor hockey takes a hit

Oh, Minnesota. What has happened to you?

The era of outdoor hockey may be ebbing, if a report from KSTP has a ring of truth. It may be the canary in a coal mine of sports.

Newport is considering closing its outdoor hockey rink.

Not enough kids in the Loveland Park neighborhood are willing to strap on the blades anymore, the mayor says.

“The internet, Pokemon, all that stuff is taking us away from that neighborhood closeness and outdoor activities, in a way it is a shame,” Newport Mayor Tim Geraghty told the station.

For the record, Pokemon is actually increasing outdoor activity and closeness, and it’s not responsible for kids not wanting to skate outdoors anymore.

In an era of organized sports, pick-up games are so yesterday. Just look at the empty baseball diamonds in your local city park.

It costs about $4,000 a year to keep the rink and warming hut up. City officials says if they close the rink, they may upgrade the last remaining outdoor rink.

“If we’re providing services, it has to be for more than just a few people,” City Administrator Deb Hill tells the South Washington County Bulletin.

Archive: For the love of outdoor hockey (NewsCut)

  • John

    I feel like blaming Pokemon for the closing of the rink was a bit of a cheap shot, since, you know, it’s been too warm to skate outside every day since that game was released in July of this year.

    Cultural interests change with every generation. Model trains, single engine planes, rebuilding classic cars – all very popular with a certain generation. None of them seem to be picked up by younger folks with different interests.

    Other areas change – why would we expect specific sports to be popular forever?

    also – I should note that my suburb is in the middle of building a new covered, outdoor ice rink. So, not dead everywhere.

  • BReynolds33

    I don’t disagree that the rink likely needs to be shut down, or that the use of them is waning rather quickly. However, the logic confounds me. If they are providing services, it has to be for more than a few people?

    The list of government services that serve very few people is extensive, with most of those costing a lot more than four grand a year.

  • Mike Worcester

    The community where I work has an outdoor rink complex. It gets used maybe three months out of the year. Finally a group of local parents asked the city to consider investing in soccer nets for the main rink, which had boards and netting on the ends. They agreed and voila! There were lots of kids playing soccer in the summer — much to the amazement of locals.

    • Kassie

      My brother used to play bike polo in an unused outdoor rink during the off season. They city put a stop to that, though it probably had to do with how dangerous of a sport it is and not that they didn’t like it getting used in the off season.

    • BJ

      “indoor” soccer using a outdoor hockey rink would be fun. Using the boards makes it a fast game, adds to the thinking that players do.

  • Kassie

    My neighborhood parks are full of people playing pickup games. The basketball courts are used until sundown every day. My friends and I had to drive to multiple parks just to find a place to play. I also see lots of people playing soccer, volleyball and ultimate Frisbee. Hockey is expensive, dangerous, and needs specialized equipment, I imagine that is why it is in decline more than what the mayor suggests.

    • I think the city is different.

      But we’re not talking organized hockey in this lamentation . We’re talking about kids just going to the neighborhood park. All you need is a stick, a puck, and skates.

      But, yes, it might well be that hockey is simply falling out of favor. We’ve seen that in several communities — mostly in the cities — where schools are dropping program because the demographics no longer support it.

      • Joe

        I see people playing pickup hockey all the time at the park near my house (in Minneapolis). But they are almost exclusively adults.

        When I lived in St. Paul I saw kids playing hockey all the time at Groveland and Edgecumbe parks.

        So maybe it just depends on the neighborhood?

        • MarkUp

          My brother and cousins would play in the local boot hockey leagues into their early 30’s. That may be how this infrastructure will change, to appeal to an older crowd.

          He moved out to Wisconsin and is frustrated with the lack of local rinks, so he’s planning on making a small rink in his back yard this winter or the one after for his kids to learn to skate on. In college he worked at a warming house, so it’s not his first time managing the ice.

          We’ll see if the neighbor kids notice and ask to use it.

      • Kassie

        One thing I realized while reading these comments and reflecting on adults and teens playing pickup games is that it is almost always men who are playing. If you go to the local basketball courts, almost always men. Pickup hockey, also almost always men. Same with soccer and football and ultimate frisbee.

        I think a big part of this is that past puberty, unless a woman is very good, she is often outmatched by men just due to physical size and speed (and often ego). Playing with guys is no fun if you always lose and there is no place for just women outside of organized sports. This leaves the public park as a place dominated by boys and men. I think this is a larger problem than the closing of a hockey rink.

        • Thomas Mercier

          I’m not sure this is just limited to organized sports, there are very few outdoor recreational activities where women participate at rates higher than men. While you mention some of the interpersonal leisure constraints (ability to be competitive) there are oodles of others such as family role, etc. that I’d guess hinder participation to a larger degree.

          • Kassie

            I think in most things where it is competitive, you will find less women, but not in things that are truly leisurely or recreational. Women seem to garden at much higher rates. If you take those wearing spandex off the roads, men and women seem to bike on trails in equal numbers. I see the same with bird watching, walking and paddling in my social circle.

            Also, USA Running has statistics that show women outnumber men as race finishers since 2010. Even though that’s competitive, it is something women do by themselves to train and they only compete against other women, but at the same time as men.

  • jon

    Ice rink near my house in the suburbs sat unused for the first ~5 years I lived there… couple years ago apparently some people in the area asked the fire department to flood the rink for them…

    Local residents have taken to maintaining the rinks (shoveling etc.) fire department comes out a few times a year to open the hydrants and spray the rinks down, parks department lays down some mats for walking from the building in the park to the rink…

    Usually a few kids skating a playing around on the rinks when I walk past in the winter… don’t think I’ve ever seen an organized game there, but it also might be the times of day/week I’m in the park.

    same park has a softball field that gets used frequently by an afterwork league, and a playground that is occupied by the kids of those playing softball, or just by elementary school kids once school lets out…

  • Jeff C.

    According to the newspaper article, the problem isn’t just that people aren’t using the ice. The lights for the ice need to be repaired. Sounds like they don’t want to spend more money on bandaids that allow crappy rinks to stay crappy but open. Sounds like they want fewer rinks but for them to be nice rinks.

    It’s not just decreased usage that is making the council consider the temporary closure. Public Works Supervisor Bruce Hanson said the lights at the rinks have serious issues.

    “Both rinks are going [bad], and the wiring is bad,” he said. “We repaired them last year, and they broke again.”

    The hope is that with only one rink open, the remaining rink in Lions Park will be higher quality.

    “It’ll make it easier to keep the Lions Park one, and give it nicer ice,” council member Dan Lund said.


    Connected in a different way:
    Early 1900’s most kids walked to school, and married local (one-two farms over). I grew up with 3 national TV stations. The Monday work chatter was about the TV show we pretty much all watched. Parks and kids and neighborhoods were where some adult knew at least one of the kids in a group and so there was little “getting away with stuff”.

    Now folks are still connected but often not in physical proximity. Many on-line friends, but fewer friends who really deeply know all about you.

  • Zachary

    There’s a park a block and half from my house (I’m near Farmington) that floods two rinks each year. One is a boarded hockey rink, and the other is a “practice”? rink. Nothing fancy about both, no lights, no warming house, just plain ice. They always seem to be in use when they are up and running.