A Sports Editor's Perspective: Nothing Like Lacing Up Your Skates On A Frozen Pond
The following is the latest installment of an occasional column by Sports Editor Andy Hutchison.
The sounds of ice skates clomping and cutting into the surface of a frozen pond bring me back to my youth. I grew up on skates; my brothers held me up before I could walk. I remember walking to and driving to/getting rides to various natural ice sheets, for games of pickup hockey when I was younger. We would shovel the snow if necessary. Frozen ponds may have their bumps and soft spots when the air temperature begins to warm up, but they are a great source for pickup hockey and recreational skating for children, adults, and families alike.
Toss your sticks into a pile to randomly pick teams, use shoes or boots for a goal, and play with no time limit; only frozen feet, hunger, and darkness seemed to serve as our clock back when I was a teenager — usually the latter was the one that ultimately prevailed. Shifts last typically under or just over a minute in a hockey game. On the pond, your shift ends when you want it to.
On Saturday, January, 15, I went to Ram Pasture’s Hawley Pond and took photos of young men playing a two-on-two scrimmage. I recognized the names having covered their games when they played hockey for Newtown High years ago. Great to see that they are still at it. One former Nighthawk said I was ambitious braving the cold for photos. I had the same thoughts about these players, and a father-child tandem passing the puck several feet away despite a biting wind.
The next day it was a bit warmer and I took my daughter Kelsie to Hawley Pond; she was beyond thrilled to skate. She’s only been on the ice a few times and loves it.
Pond skating is not just seasonal. It is subject to cooperative weather. After the recent snow and rain, we are in the midst of another cold snap so there may be more opportunities. Many have backyard rinks. For those who are looking for other outdoor skating, there is a rink at Dickinson Park (check the Parks & Recreation website www.newtown-ct.gov/parks-recreation for details and to be sure the rink is open).
When you go to a pond or lake, take care to be sure the ice is thick enough. Multiple sources online indicate a minimum of four inches of ice to be safe. You can see air bubbles several inches under the surface and this is a good indicator for the thickness. Steer clear of water inlets and outlets where the ice tends to be thin. And watch out for rocks, sticks, and other obstructions protruding through the surface. There are also ruts in the ice so be careful. You might hear some eerie sounds coming from under the ice, or loud cracking noises due to temperature changes and the ice expanding and contracting.
As we laced up our skates this past weekend so, too, did a 65-year-old man who proves you can be just about any age to enjoy pond skating. He told me about raising five girls and how they all skated. “Can you imagine lacing up skates for five girls?” he asked.
No — absolutely not. But I could not imagine not putting on skates and giving it a try, and hope Kelsie and her younger brother Grayson (eventually) enjoy skating on ponds until they are 65 and beyond.
I play in the Southern Connecticut Hockey League with a bunch of former school players and some who have picked up the sport only in their adult years. It is fun, but there is something about being out in the fresh air on a pond when the opportunity presents itself, with no boards, no clock — just maybe the cold, hunger, and darkness to bring you in after that long shift.
Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at email@example.com.