The Ross Family's Backyard Ice Rink

Each winter Pat Ross crafts a backyard ice rink outfitted with all things hockey.
Sam, Dani, Pat, Shelly and Corey Ross on their backyard ice rink.

Gone are the days when kids wandered off to nearby parks, sans parental supervision, and played for hours on end. Father of three and Maple Grove resident Pat Ross noticed this and set out to create a new play-time destination: his own backyard.
Pat did not grow up playing hockey. Instead, he spent the winter season wrestling. When his three kids expressed an interest in hockey he immediately jumped on board. Pat coached Corey, now a senior, and Sam, now a sophomore, both at Maple Grove Senior High, along with Dani, a sixth grader at Rush Creek Elementary, to major triumphs and defeats.
Pat manufactured his first backyard ice rink while living in Brooklyn Park in 1998. “I wanted to give my kids a chance to skate when they wanted,” he says.
In comparison to this year’s feat, his first try was drastically different. Pat did not level his yard before filling the rink so the kitchen-table-sized space was a bit lopsided. He acknowledges that the process takes years of trial and error, and he continues to tweak and perfect.
The family moved to Maple Grove in 2000 and Pat continued rink building. Due to a lack of ice rink space in Maple Grove, his kids’ teams began practicing in the family’s backyard, with a catch: Pat enlisted the parents of teammates to assist in the rink’s filling and tear down. His winter endeavor has since been locally and nationally recognized and awarded.
The Ross rink has drastically improved since Pat’s first attempt 15 years ago. Outfitted with lights, hockey nets and boards, the rink is any hockey player’s dream. Once the boards are in place, he sets the liner and fills the area with water. Pat builds and stores the boards himself, advises against using a black liner, and comments that it takes one and half days to fill the rink using three hoses. For uneven yards, he suggests leveling with a bobcat before beginning.
Although his neighbors and wife shake their heads and question Pat’s icy passion each year, his kids expect it. “The idea is just to let kids be kids as much as you can,” Pat says.
From a Christmas Eve family skate to boot hockey games with dads on Saturday nights, the rink is steeped in tradition and excitement. However, Pat recalls the normal days often being the most rewarding. “The good moments are when you have 10 or 12 kids over, and they spend the day at your house, having a good time,” he says.  
Not only do Pat, his kids, and his kids’ friends enjoy the rink, other parents do as well. Friend Mark Franklin acknowledges that it serves as a great opportunity to build teamwork. His son Sam, a sophomore, began playing in the Ross backyard at the mite level (age 5). Years later, he still spends many winter days skating there. “Every year he would go over there and a group of them played hockey,” Mark says. “They just kind of grew up together.”
Neighbor Joe Coughlin has often joined Pat for boot hockey. He is thankful that the Ross ice rink has given his son Ryan and friends a place to get together. “All of these kids have grown up playing hockey on that rink. He has a personal setting there,” Coughlin says. “He should keep it forever.”
By the time March rolls around Pat admits he becomes fed up with rink upkeep. He mentions however that even the bad moments are good moments. Year after year he continues to give his kids a chance for hockey at the ready. “She (Dani) deserves the same chance as her brothers had to use it and skate,” Pat says.
With his main assistant out of commission—Corey tore the ligament in his knee in August—Pat experienced his workload in future years. Still, he won’t be hampered any time soon.

Pat Ross’s Tips for Crafting a Pristine Backyard Ice Rink

•    Understand gravity and grade, including the ins and outs of your backyard.
•    Pick up a good liner, don’t go cheap. Try Nice Rink at for options.
•    Be ready for trial and error. Don’t expect perfection the first time around.
•    Minnesota weather presents challenges. Be cautious of not-cold-enough temperatures.
•    Enlist others to assist, including the kiddos, in the filling and draining processes.
•    Contact your local city before filling. They will mark the water meter which cuts down on water costs.