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Movie scenes at skating rinks make sense in Sask.

Joyce Walter reminisces about ice skating
Reflective Moments by Joyce Walter

The month-long season of 24-hour-a-day Christmas movies is complete and has instantly morphed into a period of winter festival movies to fill weekend time slots.

Of course Housemate, with some sarcasm, suggests the festival movies will have two things in common with the Christmas movies on that channel: a chaste kiss at the end, and a scene with skating. Some friends hold similar views but I managed to tune them out and even laughed with them over the skating rink activities.

I love the skating scenes, looking at them with nostalgia for what was and what might have been if only I had had stronger ankles as a youngster and if I still owned a pair of skates.

Talks of backyard rinks, flooding of neighbourhood outdoor skating surfaces, open skating at the indoor facilities, arena burgers and warm-up shacks heated with coal bring back some wonderful memories of events that were taken for granted while they were taking place.

My community had an outdoor rink down the hill from the school and there was a rhythm to how the neighbours all came together to make it the hive of winter activity for all ages. I have no idea if it was a regulation size rink that would have been sanctioned by hockey bodies of the day, but it had boards, ice-making and cleaning volunteers, shack attendants, a dressing room shack which I think was shared by home and visiting teams, hot chocolate, coffee, snacks and for hockey games, hamburgers and hotdogs.

I learned to skate by slithering up and down our back alley, before actually being allowed to go onto the ice by a watchful parent. There I clung to the boards to learn the basics and then ventured out to the centre of the rink and immediately fell down. It must have been those weak ankles, the left foot going west and the right foot going east and my behind plopping down without grace. Getting up was just as dangerous as sitting down there getting a frozen bottom.

But soon I could slide along upright nearly with the best of them. The only mortification after that was the teasing I took because the only skates that would properly support my tender ankles were skates for boys — those black and brown things worn by male hockey players. 

It wasn’t until high school that I received a pair of white figure skates as a Christmas present. Look out Olympics. And just wait until those Russian judges saw me out there. Such were the momentary dreams of someone whose ankles still wobbled. The same someone who still had trouble coming to a sliding stop without toppling over the ice or smacking with pressure into the boards.

When someone gamely offered to skate hand-in-hand with me it was like floating on air, smooth and graceful, at least in my own mind.

After joining the busy workforce, skating became only an occasional activity, and for some reason the fear of falling down made it happen less often — until sticking close to the boards became a habit so as not to break bones.

Then the family of an exchange student asked if I would loan my skates to the visitor. I agreed, with the assumption the skates would be returned. The student returned to Switzerland, and possibly my skates went there too.

Thus ended any dreams I might have had of ice-skating achievements. My ankles say thanks, my back and hips have heaved a loud sigh of relief and friends and strangers will not have to smother their mirth at seeing someone my age looking like a whale spread-eagle on the ice.

But I will continue to watch ice sports with enthusiasm, including movies with ice rinks and skaters gliding along with mitten-clasped hands.

Joyce Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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