If you find yourself travelling eastbound on Fourth Line towards Floradale after the sun has gone down, keep your eyes open and listen closely: you might see bright lights shining from behind a farmhouse on your left, and hear the sounds of the perfect slapshot.
This is Cleason Martin’s homemade ice rink, one of several in the township to pop up this season, but Martin’s is a little bit different. Here you will find not only a fresh ice surface for games of pickup hockey, but a fully equipped, heated change room area complete with benches for tying up skates, shelves for holding equipment, framed pictures of past hockey greats, a lost-and-found box, and even a window for people to watch the game while staying warm and dry – all inside the confines of an old truck trailer in his backyard.
Although Martin says that the rink stays fairly empty during the day, the ice is bustling in the evenings with local girls who come to play hockey on Tuesday nights, boys who come both Thursday and Friday nights, and a whole mix of enthusiasts on the weekends. Some nights there are between 40 and 50 pairs of skates scratching the surface of the ice, under lights Martin recovered from the demolition of the old Elmira Raceway.
Martin’s son Larry helps his father with the flooding, and together they have established a rink that is 80 by 180 feet in size, nearly as large as the ice pad at the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena in Elmira where Larry plays hockey each week. It takes the Martins only a day and a half to get the impressive rink set up, but Cleason has had a bit of experience in the field – he’s been doing it for 32 years, after all.
Several do-it-yourself rink-making guides suggest that about three inches of ice will be strong enough for adults to skate on and that any additional thickness only improves the quality of the experience. Martin estimates that the rink in his yard is now at least eight inches thick, after days of continual flooding by his homemade water dispensing device.
“The weather has been just right. It’s been cold and it’s been snowing, so I just kept on flooding!”
His rink welcomes those people in the neighbourhood who may not have access to other local arenas.
“A lot of the people who come out to my rink aren’t really supposed to go in arenas, so why not accommodate them?”
Although some skaters pay a small fee to use the ice for the season, Martin said his project doesn’t make him any money after he factors in the cost of the equipment he buys each year. That’s not the point: he creates the rink to give something back to his community.
“I always liked sports myself and I like people to enjoy themselves and have fun.”