Speakeasy Hockey

Christian Klueg, 39, of Northville, NY skates from his house to his backyard rink.

Skates. I was having trouble picturing this until I saw the photo of Klueg’s backyard in this article, “With Indoor Rinks Closed, Players Turn to ‘Speakeasy Hockey‘.”

Sure enough, Klueg’s back door opens directly onto ice smooth enough to reflect his house and his coiled garden hose. He is one of several enterprising winter people—most of them hockey players—who have created elaborate set ups for family, friends, and strangers this year, as rinks have remained shut by the pandemic.

“It’s almost like Prohibition-era speakeasy hockey,” Klueg said of the winter sports racket he has running on the  gorgeous rink he’s constructed out back. “Knock a certain way, come on in.”

I know the knock.

I don’t play hockey—haven’t ice-skated for years—but I cross country ski whenever I can in my upstate, NY town. My husband and I live within 400 yards of skiable trails. One day last week, we walked to the trail and skied for an hour before work—spontaneously—while the sun rose and the Ithaca rush hour busied our road with TCAT buses and delivery trucks.

skis leaning against a wall; snow
Our skis wait for action outside our door. So does the snow shovel. Photo by Kate Blackwood

It feels good walk to an hour-long ski while others commute to work. It feels good to be this friendly with winter. It feels good to know the best places to park at Hammond Hill State Forest—and to complete a six-mile hilly loop without skiing into a tree or colliding with somebody’s snow-happy dog (a real possibility).

It feels good to know the knock of the winter sport sub-culture.

As kids, my mom and her sisters would skate every day after school in Detroit on an outdoor rink flooded and maintained by the neighborhood dads. They still glow when they talk about it.

Last summer, Bill drove me past the rec field in Minneapolis where he played youth hockey games while his parents shivered.

Early this month, I spectated on skis as Bill ran a 10K snowshoe race in a foot of snow.

Several people in bright clothing run in the snow
The start of the 2021 Super Frosty Loomis snowshoe race 2021, organized by Finger Lakes Runners Club. Photo by Kate Blackwood

If all this doesn’t get me into the club, here’s the clincher: I keep my skis in my four wheel drive Subaru so I’m ready to go at all times.

Thinking about making friends with snow and ice via winter sports also makes me think, this week, about people in Texas and other southern states slammed by winter weather. Every time I put on a pair of wool socks or zip up a hoodie carefully selected for its neck coverage, my heart goes out to people dealing with cold we northerners have adapted to with warm clothing, four-wheel drive and sophisticated toys. (Not to mention a working power grid.)

An everyday coat, a wood-burning stove, a selection of knit hats. An ice resurfacer.

1 Comment

  1. Raymond Shuster on March 4, 2021 at 9:06 am

    A family near us owns an empty lot next to their home which features an ice rink complete with lights, netting and hockey goals every winter.

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