Young Cole Erickson lives close to Ojibway Park.
But the Woodbury Athletic Association mite doesn’t go there to play hockey during winter.
“We have better ice,” said his father, BJ Erickson.
Three years ago Erickson decided to make a small backyard ice rink for his children at their Woodbury home.
It has since grown into an impressive structure and a hub for a close-knit group of hockey parents who come together on Friday nights.
“The dads sit along the lines, the moms are inside socializing, and the kids go outside and go bonkers,” Erickson said.
That first year, the rink was a quarter of its current size, and it wasn’t a conscious decision to create a mini Xcel Energy Center in the backyard, Erickson said.
“It just happened,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be this obsessive, but it’s obviously fun for the kids. … If I’m going to go big, go big.”
Where did Erickson learn how to make the rink?
“He Googles,” said his wife, Danelle.
Erickson, who said he’s not much of a handyman outside the rink work, grew up playing hockey in Faribault. Since his son started playing, “the hockey bug is back,” he said.
Neighbor children often come over to use the rink, which features lights and even corporate logos—one for a friend who works at Target and another for Home Depot. “That’s were I bought all the lumber,” Erickson said.
Cole, 7, was enjoying himself on the grass inside the boards last week. He appreciates this year’s additions to the rink.
“I like that Mario and Bowser are up there,” he said, referring to two video game characters that now adorn the rink’s boards.
Danelle painted the figures, which include an image of Homer Simpson.
“Homer—that’s more for the wife and I,” Erickson said.
Last year, a Woodbury family won a Fox Sports North backyard ice rink contest, and Erickson said he plans to enter his rink this season. There’s a logo from the sports network painted on the boards. “It can’t hurt,” he said.
The family’s shed serves as a warming house for the young skaters during winter.
“If they get cold they can go in and get some hot chocolate,” Erickson said.
Though the rink went up more quickly this fall, last year’s heavy snow made upkeep a little more difficult.
“For every 20 hours of work, there’s one hour of play,” Erickson said with a laugh.
Danelle said her husband is often up until the early hours of the morning working on the rink.
“It’s exhausting,” he said. “But when you see all the kids out here, it’s worth it.”
"All we need now is cold," Danelle said.