Meet the Dad Who Turned His Back Patio Into a Hockey Rink
This hockey dad is taking “home ice” to a whole new level.
In the cold winter months, when an outdoor patio is used more for storage purposes than for enjoyment, one homeowner in Columbus, Ohio, has taken it upon himself to transform his patio into something entirely unique: his own hockey rink.
Last December, Patrick Erlenbach, a portfolio coordinator for Nationwide Insurance and a father of two, turned his back patio into an indoor hockey rink for his 5-year-old son Mason, a budding hockey player and a big fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets, their local NHL team.
The Home Story caught up with Erlenbach, who revealed how he managed to put together an ice rink indoors and deal with all its attendant challenges.
Mason Erlenbach working on his shootout skills. (Patrick Erlenbach)
A T-square and a water hose serve as Erlenbach's makeshift Zamboni. (Patrick Erlenbach)
Patrick and Mason square off. (Patrick Erlenbach)
"...every time he does score he’s usually skating around singing the Blue Jackets’ goal song, you know. It gets quite annoying," says Erlenbach. (Patrick Erlenbach)
The Home Story: So here is an obvious question: Why build a hockey rink on your back patio?
Patrick Erlenbach: I wanted to build a backyard hockey rink. I actually have a good friend of mine who built a backyard rink once, and so I kind of understood the concept of how he did it and all of that. I live on a hill. I have no where flat [on the property], so it just became one of those things where it’s like, “Okay, where’s my flat space at?” I have this screened-in porch that’s flat, first off, and I’ve got boards up, and I’ve got a way to kind of contain a puck and contain my kid at the same time.
THS: When did it dawn on you that your back patio had the infrastructure that could support an actual hockey rink?
Erlenbach: It’s a concrete pad, so I wasn’t too worried about supporting the weight. I was more concerned about ice expanding and contracting. The patio is part of the house, and it holds up a piece of the roof, so I did some research on, “How much does ice contract, or how much does it expand,” and was just trying to figure out, “Okay, how much room will I need?” At this point in time, it was trial and error.
THS: So how does one actually build a hockey rink?
Erlenbach: What was very interesting, and what was one of the things I learned, was there is enough heat coming off the house that along the one edge it was staying pretty warm and it wasn’t freezing. So I laid down some insulation up into that corner, a two-fold thing where I’m trying to keep water out of there, first off, but also just trying to keep the temperature barrier a little bit as well. It seems to have worked now. I’m also dealing with almost negative-degree temperatures here [in Columbus] in the last couple of weeks, so it’s been nice there. So far so good.
THS: Is there a weight to limitation to how many people can be on the ice at any given time?
Erlenbach: It’s a concrete pad. I’m not a small dude, and it’s supporting me. We hear the ice crack every once in a while. I think they recommend four inches of water down. I’ve got two and a half inches now, and on that concrete pad, it’s pretty solid.
THS: How do you fill up your rink? With a backyard hose?
Erlenbach: We have a faucet down in the basement that I attached a hose to. My wife’s freaked out because water’s one of those fun things that damages everything. It’s a good hose, so I’m not worried about it.
THS: What happens when the ice melts?
Erlenbach: We have a rain barrel, so I’m one of those rain-catcher type of people. My plan is if I can capture the water, I am going to try to pump the water out into our rain barrel so that I am keeping that water and using it in our garden later on. I’m just not letting it empty out to the yard. I’ve already wasted enough water. I’m kind of bummed by that.
THS: Your son must love it.
Erlenbach: My kid loves it. If it’s warm enough and we bundle him up, he’s out there. He wants to skate, and he loves just skating around. He’s a hockey fan, too. Even last night while we were watching the [Blue Jackets] game, he wanted to be out there.
THS: Not every kid has a hockey rink inside his home.
Erlenbach: He talks to all his friends about it. We’ve had some of the neighbor kids come down and play on it as well. For him it’s great. He’s kind of in awe of it. And that’s what it’s about. He loves the fact that daddy comes out and skates and tries not to fall down — I don’t know if it’s skating. His mom is coming out now and trying to learn how to skate as well (He’s loving that). He’s an outdoor kid, so the wintertime kills him. This was a good way to get him outside and get that fresh air.
THS: Is he more of a natural scorer or a defenseman? How would you categorize his game?
Erlenbach: He is a little bit of everything right now. He is trying to figure it out. He loves to score, and every time he does score, he’s usually skating around singing the Blue Jackets’ goal song, you know. It gets quite annoying after the fifth or sixth time, so you want to stop him just so that he’s not skating around for five minutes singing the song.
THS: Do you have a mini-Zamboni?
Erlenbach: Honestly, what I’m doing right now is literally just scraping the ice off, and then I will go out with a hose and just lay down a layer of lukewarm water on top. I have a big T-square thing that I have from doing some other remodeling projects for drywall. It’s become this perfect ice scraper, and it kind of helps drag water across the area as well. It sounds ridiculous, but it works.