Punxsutawney Phil the groundhog got it badly wrong when he looked at his shadow this week. Six more weeks of winter? We are still in winter?
Yes, I know it is February and normally the peak of winter, but this year winter seems to have made a guest appearance. There is practically no snow on the ground this year. The temperatures have been in the thirties. It feels more like we are already in an early spring. Not that I am complaining, especially after last year’s Snowmageddons.
But this weather means, among other things, that the pond ice must not be too thick. The backyard pond freezes over every winter; the ice is thick enough to walk on, and I have always wondered if it is thick enough to drive a car on. I suspect it would be, but in six years of living here, though, I haven’t even walked on the pond in winter, let alone drive a car on it.
This winter though, there have been very few days of subzero temperatures, and for the past week or more, the temperatures have been in the thirties. I thought that was perhaps not cold enough for thick ice to form. Yet the neighbor has bravely decided to build a hockey rink in the backyard.
When we say “hockey” in these parts, we mean ice hockey, of course. When Sarah Palin called herself a “Hockey Mom”, she did not mean the game that Dhyan Chand played. That would be”Field hockey”, a sport that very few people play. I suspect we will have to explain the game to people in this country as ice hockey played on astroturf. To my mind, though, calling ice hockey as hockey (or NFL football as football) is like calling table tennis as tennis.
Ice hockey is a deceptively violent and dangerous game. It’s not just that players use the hockey puck as an assault weapon, but these games are played on ice. Even with helmets and protective gear, falls on ice cause concussions and other injuries. Players have even died of on-ice injuries. (Look at this list of ice hockey player deaths on wikipedia – quite a few on-ice deaths since 1990 alone. And this list is only pro ice hockey, and does not include high school and college teams).
What this means is that even if you are playing ice hockey in your backyard, you still need to don helmets and other protective gear. If anything, it might be slightly more dangerous as the ice will not be as smooth as in a rink.
This year, there is another danger, with the warmer temperatures – the risk of melting ice.
When I saw the neighbor carving out the rink with a shovel, I worried he would fall through the ice. I was excited at the idea of watching an impromptu game of ice hockey, but didn’t think it would happen. After all, there is field hockey and ice hockey, but there is no such thing as pond hockey.
Then, finally, it happened today evening. No ice hockey, just broomball. We got an invitation to join too, but then that would involve babysitters and so on.
The pond ice, we were told, was 10 inches thick.