Backyard rinks across Canada, like this one in Stratford, Prince Edward Island, are melting in the erratic tempertures this winter

Backyard rinks across Canada, like this one in Stratford, Prince Edward Island, are melting in the erratic tempertures. Freeze and thaw cycles ranging from minus 20 to 15 degrees celsuis emptied many locations.
Photo Credit: CBC / Sherry MacInnis

Backyard skating: from rinks to sinks this winter


Backyard skating is a Canadian winter tradition, but this year the mild temperatures have rendered it a memory in many places. These are the findings of some innovative citizen-science.

RINK WATCH, is the initiative of a group of geography professors at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario. This international project is helping to track the effect of global warming, and this winter is proving to be a major challenge.

“When we first launched it, it was one of these little experiments that we did off the sides of our desks to see if there was any interest”, Professor Rober McLeman explained. The website and the interactive map became a hit, initially in Montreal, and word spread. The venture was so successful the team needed students to help out with the data. “Now students will make it part of their ongoing research projects to participate in Rink Watch.”


Generations of children, and many adults, have passed the hours playing hockey and figure skating around a backyard rink. It is now part of Canadian lore how former hockey star, Wayne Gretzky, spent his childhood on the rink his father created every winter in Brantford, Ontario. Number 99 says he developed his talent “right in my own backyard”.

“It’s such an important thing for our kids and our families to have this outdoor activity.” 

It is so much a part of the Canadian landscape that our currency, the blue five-dollar bill, featured an image of the backyard rink from 2002 to 2013. It is the place where children gather and imaginations are engaged. From emulating hockey heroes to attempting figure skating feats, to blooming romances, everything is possible!

This winter however, a combination of El Nino and global warming, according to Professor McLeman, has left the rink makers very frustrated. The temperatures have been so varied in Atlantic Canada that there are no rinks reporting from Newfoundland.

McLeman says there are fewer people overall reporting this year. “After two or three of these freeze-thaw cycles people are throwing in the towel.”  Two or three nights of temperatures consistenly below minus 10 celsius are needed for the ice to solidify, and then daily tempertaures can’t exceed minus 5 celsius. This coming week they are forcasting 14 or 15 degrees in eastern Canada.

“As soon as the thermometre starts creeping up above that the quality of the rink deteriorates and people just stop skating.” McLemon says we still got winter this year in the form of freezing rain, snow and slush, “but we didn’t get any good cross-country skiing or outdoor skating and so these are the things that really make living in Canada a fun thing to do in the winter-time.”  Now as another season comes to an end there’s not much to do but compile the data and hope for next winter.

Posted in Arts and Entertainment, Environment, International, Internet, Science and Technology, Society

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet netiquette guidelines.

Netiquette »

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.


One comment on “Backyard skating: from rinks to sinks this winter
  1. Avatar Jerry says:

    Yes. Here in Regina SK, I think our last outdoor skate was on Sunday and even that was iffy. They are predicting plus 8 on Friday and with the couple of plus days already this week, I think there is no point in trying to keep it going.