By Angela Evans
Patrick Bernard is one local who is taking advantage of the lack of snowfall. Using Google and YouTube as guides, Bernard built an ice rink in his backyard as a Christmas present for his 8-year-old daughter Katie.
Bernard started building Katie’s rink on December 16th, just in time for the freezing temperatures. He cleared a 30’ by 40’ area of snow and debris from his backyard, leaving a leveled base of dirt and old asphalt. He then covered the cleared area with sheets of painter’s plastic he bought at the Do It Center.
For the next four nights, Bernard flooded the rink every few hours, sleeping only 2 or 3 hours each night. When temperatures dropped to 15 degrees on the third night, the pipes froze. Bernard’s solution— run an extension cord out his second story window with a hair dryer attached. “With a little prayer to the hockey gods, the water began to flow and the dream stayed alive.” The entire area is lit by spotlights he found at Second Chance Thrift Shop, where he is the assistant manager.
“It was such trial and error the first few days, I didn’t know how it would turn out,” said Bernard. His goal was to finish the rink by Christmas, but Katie was able to skate on it December 20th.
They started skating on about an inch of ice but now the ice is as much as two and half inches thick in some places. Bernard maintains the rink every night with his “Zamboni,” a white bucket filled with warm water and a plastic Swiffer mop. He then floods the rink with about an eighth of an inch of water, leaving it to freeze overnight.
Even with the high daily temperatures Mammoth has been experiencing, Katie’s rink is still frozen solid. But Bernard and daughter Katie mostly skate in the mornings and evenings because of the warm weather. Katie is a 2nd grader at Mammoth Elementary and during the holiday break she skated with her dad every day from 8 to 10 a.m. “That was our New Year’s resolution! Skating everyday!” Katie exclaimed.
Snowfall will most likely hinder the use of Katie’s rink. “I can always bring the blower out here and clear the rink and re-flood it. If we get a huge storm, the snow placement will be difficult.” But Bernard doesn’t seem worried. “We’ve already been skating 17 days. We’ll see how far it goes. As far as I see now, we have at least a month more.”
Bernard, who grew up in San Diego, always wanted to play ice hockey but was limited to roller hockey by climate. His great uncle, Parker MacDonald, coached the Los Angeles Kings during the 1980-81 season.
Katie started skating at the Mammoth Ice Rink two years ago and this is her first year playing hockey. Watching her move the puck around the ice in full hockey pads and helmet, Bernard said, “She loves it. Ice skating is a tough thing to learn and this is a great learning opportunity.”
Katie’s rink is for “just the family, maybe some friends” Bernard said. “But the community rink is only $2 for local kids. And only $5 for a youth hockey.”
This is Bernard’s 3rd season volunteering as Assistant Coach for Mammoth Youth Hockey.
He plans on building a rink again next year, assuming there isn’t much early season snow. And he is already thinking about how he can improve the rink—purchasing one large sheet of plastic instead of several separate ones to avoid water leaks and putting up boards around the edge of rink.
For now, Katie is happy with the rink the way it is. When asked what she thought of her Christmas present, she said, “It is amazing!”
You can email Patrick Bernard at email@example.com for tips on building your own rink or information about Mammoth Youth Hockey.