For most people, a swimming pool or a trampoline make for a fun addition to their yard. For Patrick Maloney, only a personal ice rink would suffice.
For the past five years, Maloney has maintained a sizable ice skating rink of his own making at his Conneaut Lake home. Measuring 60-feet by 100-feet, the rink even features hockey dasher boards along the boundary.
The boards, which are the same style as those used in NHL hockey team rinks, are a new addition this year. Maloney acquired them from outdoor rinks in Washington, D.C., which are supported by the National Hockey League's Washington Capitals after those rinks were able to undergo renovations.
Growing up, hockey was something that always ran in Maloney's blood. He first learned to skate when he was 3 years old and has fond memories of playing on the ice with his sister Holly Maloney, who teaches ice skating at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex.
"I grew up playing hockey and my dad would always have an outdoor rink out at his house," Maloney said.
He even plays on a hockey team in Erie, and even sometimes invites his team down to skate on his rink. Maloney currently plays for the Rippers in the Erie Youth Hockey Association's adult league. Otherwise, Maloney mostly just opens up the rink to family, friends and neighbors.
"If you're friends with me, it's a nice little thing to have," he said.
Much like any outdoor rink, Maloney's rink is dependent on weather conditions. The rink requires an exact balance between the weather being cold while not having too much snowfall.
"You've gotta have 20s-to-10s in the temps," Maloney said. "Not too much snow. Usually, the best way is to use a liner."
The actual time frame in which the rink can be used might be slim. Maloney predicts this weekend might be the last for the rink for the year, as temperatures seem like they'll start climbing into the 30s, which is too warm for the rink.
It actually took some time into the winter for the weather to become ideal.
"It got a slow start," Maloney said. "It was around mid-January, and I would say probably the second week of January it started cooperating."
Maloney fills up the rink with water himself, allowing it to freeze. He also has his own pseudo-ice resurfacer, though instead of a drive-able Zamboni or something similar, he uses a T-shaped bar with a connecting hose and holes drilled into it. A towel is behind the bar as well.
"It lays it down nice and smooth, which helps it freeze a little better," he said.
Resurfacing the rink takes around 20 to 30 minutes, according to Maloney. If any snow has fallen onto the rink, he needs to shovel it off first, which can take 60 to 90 minutes, depending on the amount of snow.
Maloney frequently posts pictures and updates about the rink on his own Instagram page, auldylachs_rink.
Beyond taking pride in his own rink, Maloney also enjoys watching his sons, 3-year-old Auldrain and 8-month-old Lachlan. Auldrain already has learned to skate and has done so for the past year-and-a-half, continuing the family tradition.
"I think seeing him grow into it, I enjoy it," Maloney said.
Sean P. Ray can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.