This Black Ice buff built a backyard rink

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Pieter Hollenberg places a net at one end of the hockey rink he built in his backyard. Careful Pieter, it’s slippery out there!
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Hollenberg and daughter, Riley, fight for possession of the puck during one of the family’s heated after-dinner battles.

Pieter Hollenberg's back yard is essentially neglected for lengthy portions of the year, his family instead preferring to stay indoors to avoid the elements.

Until winter rolls around.

Sound backward? Not if you have a 27-by-67-foot hockey rink - complete with homemade Zamboni and lights at both ends - just outside your backdoor.

Hollenberg admitted the family uses the yard less frequently during the humid and buggy summer months. But the Montreal native has long had hockey in his blood, first constructing the rink last year to provide a practice area for his Black Ice Pond Hockey tournament team and a place for his children to learn to skate.

The sophomore effort, though, received some fairly significant upgrades.

The current version of the rink is almost 20 feet longer and a few feet wider and includes the aforementioned lighting. It is under those lights every evening where you will often find Hollenberg and his daughters - Riley, 10, and Finley, 5 - squeezing in a quick game of 2-on-1 before retiring for the night.

"It's tremendous," Hollenberg said. "It's the best after dinner - We come out for about half an hour, give my wife time to make some lunches, and when I bring the kids in their cheeks are red and they're nice and tired. It's been nothing but excellent."

The project began with a large mat of plastic placed over the grass, which Hollenberg then tucked into wooden boards around the perimeter of the rink. It takes between 12 and 15 hours of continuous hosing to fill the rink, and it must be filled when temperatures are sure to be low overnight in order to ensure freezing.

After the initial freeze, Hollenberg adds a final, thin layer of sprayed water over the top. He also constructed a Zamboni that consists of a large cooler in a wagon. He attached a spigot to the cooler to drizzle warm water on the ice and a floor mat to the rear of the wagon to spread the layer thinly as he drags the device.

It's a lot of work, but it's a labor of love. Hollenberg said he had nearly 200 people on the ice last winter and is already up to 109 this year, all of which makes the expense of time and money more than worth it.

His children have also taken full advantage, becoming accomplished skaters in a short amount of time.

"I remember two years ago, going to White Park with my friends, it was a challenge to skate halfway across the rink without falling," Riley, said. "Now I can skate laps here 25 times, and just having other people here, you can see them skating and have them give you tips."

Hollenberg enjoys evenings with his children but also has regular practices with his Black Ice squad, welcoming in the weekend with some Friday night hockey, and has hosted numerous weekend gatherings with friends and neighbors.

Having kept the rink alive into mid-March last year, that gives Hollenberg another few months to enjoy his back yard before the weather conditions become simply unbearable.

"It's just fun being out here," he said. "It's good exercise, it's fun for the kids to bring their friends over. It's been great."

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