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As COVID Shutters Minnesota Ice Arenas, Backyard Hockey Rinks Gain Popularity

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota is often referred to as the "State of Hockey" -- and that's being proven once again during the pandemic.

With rinks temporarily shut down, more people than ever before are building their own rinks.

If you build it, they will come. That phrase may come from the baseball movie "Field of Dreams," but this year it applies to a winter pastime. It's what happens when you put up a hockey rink in your backyard, like the Dalbecs did in Buffalo.

"Some neighbors come down and we play scrimmages, like three-on-three, four-on-four," said 9-year-old Mason Dalbec.

With boards, a liner, water and an assist from Mother Nature, kids in this neighborhood are making up for lost ice time. When the arenas do open again, they hope to be a step ahead.

"You could build one for anywhere from $250 to $700," said D.J. Dalbec. "It's fun. Makes it worth all the hard work."

backyard hockey rink
(credit: CBS)

A record number of Minnesotans are discovering that for the very first time, including WCCO anchor Heather Brown and her family. They are rink rookies, and they're finding out that the rinks allow kids to burn off energy while allowing parents to get creative with lights, and even Zambonis.

Bryce Ferguson's backyard rink in Maple Grove is one of the largest ones around. In fact, there's talk of having men's three-on-three hockey league games when restrictions are lifted. That's Ferguson's goal, anyway. The dimensions of his rink are 115 feet by 60 feet.

"It's a perfect sheet for three-on-three, and you know, these kids could skate all day on it," said Ferguson.

It's been an outlet for his kids in the midst of distance learning.

"Sometimes our friends come over and ... we skate with them, then it gets fun," said 8-year-old Campbell Ferguson.

The Fergusons inherited their rink from the previous homeowner who even put LED lights in the ice. It's a chance to highlight what's great about Minnesota winters.

"Absolutely worth it. Every penny," said Ferguson. "I loved it so much that it's important for me to pass on to the next generation."

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