Saturday 14 January 2012

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Skate-less at Kelowna's Outdoor Rink

I have a question for the folks responsible for the outdoor skating rink in Kelowna. They've gone and built a beautiful skating rink right on the shore of our lake. The location is fantastic, right across from Kelowna city hall in the middle of Jim Stuart park, with plenty of cheap parking available in the area. The scenery is amazing as you look out across Okanagan lake on the mountains and city of West Kelowna. They've even managed to make it a perfect family destination by making it completely free. No, my problem isn't with anything they did, it's with something they forgot.

Hey guys...Where are the boards?

Let me start by stating emphatically that yes, I am a Canadian. I have a birth certificate and a passport that will attest to that fact, and to be honest I have far too much of a fascination with Tim Hortons to qualify for citizenship in any other country. Despite my Canadian stature however, I've never learned to skate (or ski, or curl, or snowshoe, but let's focus on the matter at hand). When I was young I lived out East, and like most families who spend six months a year neck deep in snow, every winter we had a backyard ice rink. The difference between our family and others however, was that we learned how to play broomball instead of hockey. Now if you don't know what broomball is, don't feel bad. It's a little obscure, but imagine a hockey game where the puck is replaced by a ball, the sticks are replaced by brooms, and instead of skating, everybody walks. This was my childhood sport, and the reason why I can't skate.

What I can do however, is look good standing on the boards of a hockey rink. I have just enough balance to be able to stand there and not look like I have a death grip on the edge. On occasion I can take a couple of strides away from the boards and then back as long as nobody comes within two blue lines of me. Hopefully this creates the impression that I'm just one of those guys who prefers to watch what's going on rather than be the star, and believe me if I went more than five meters away from the boards, I would definitely be the center of attention.

So with my fine skating pedigree in hand, I rolled up to the Jim Stuart skating rink only to find that there are no boards around the outside of the rink, there's simply a couple inch high ledge surrounded by a walkway. This was going to seriously impact my ability to look good. Sitting on the edge of a rink does not imply the same level of aptitude that standing does, and spending any more than a couple of minutes there is a sure fire sign that you don't really want to be out on the ice. I scanned the area for something close enough to the rink to use as support, but the only thing I could find was a lamp post that would require me to straddle the walkway in order to keep one foot on the ice and one hand on the pole. Nope, there was no escaping it. This was going to be one of those "not looking good" experiences.

I guess I could always land on the ducks
Fortunately, I'm good at not looking good. I long ago gave up trying to impress anybody but my wife, and she long ago let me know that she could see right through my poser moves like hanging on to the boards at the edge of a hockey rink. Besides, I had my readers to think of. I promised you guys that I was going to explore a little of Kelowna, and those of you who have been reading along for the last six months know that I'm not afraid to make a fool of myself (If you're new here, please be assured that the last six months have been a string of heroic and brave adventures!) so off I went to get some skates and test out this beautiful, yet sideless, rink.

Of course, sometimes you're just not meant to embarrass yourself. It turns out that, despite my best intentions, there is nowhere at Kelowna's outdoor skating rink to rent skates. Apparently it's something our city council would like to have, but they've been unable to find a vendor, so for now the rink operates as a bring-your-own-skates destination. Needless to say, I don't own a pair of skates, so unfortunately (phew!) I was relegated to the sidelines. I spent a little while wandering around taking pictures and wishing that the food truck parked at the side of the rink was open (it's only open at night it seems), but eventually I packed up and headed home without ever getting to hit the ice.

It's a little unfortunate that you can't rent skates at the rink, especially as it's only a short walk from one of the premier hotels in our city. I can't imagine that families on vacation pack skates along with them, so it's a bit of a lost opportunity, but considering it's only in it's second year of operation, the rink has been a resounding success. In fact, they've had to extend the operating hours because so many Kelowna residents want to use it. Apparently a lot of people in Kelowna own their own skates. Have they never heard of broomball?