Posts Tagged ‘outdoors’


November 25th, 2011 5 comments

My first thought upon seeing the rental skates at the outdoor downtown rink was that I should have brought my own.

Maybe the contraptions in my hands weren’t actually skates.  Sure, the boots were there; some laces, too. There were pieces of steel attached to the bottoms of the boots, but calling them “blades” would be laughable at best, for that would imply they had edges of some sort.

Hockey players are fanatical about their skates.  Skating is, after all, a defining characteristic of ice hockey, and without it, all you’d have would be something like hockey, but on a field, and since that’s dangerously close to soccer, even fewer people in America would watch it on T.V.  Without good skating, a player is useless, and good skating starts with good skates.  But good skates alone are insufficient; they must be sharp to perform well.

Sharp skates are so important that in certain impoverished parts of the world, they’ll even risk sharpening the blades freehand(!) just to get those edges.  Seriously, seeing video of a guy doing that made my jaw drop.

The blades on my rentals looked like they hadn’t seen a sharpener’s grindstone of any sort in the past decade.  Fortunately, I wasn’t trying to play hockey with them.

A cross-section of a sharp blade looks like the example on the left. Sharp edges, nice bite. The rental skates looked like the one on the right. Burrs = no bite.

Why then, you ask, would I be at a rink if not to play hockey, and why on earth would I be screwing around with rental skates?

I was renting because I was in downtown Atlanta, Georgia at the Olympic Park Ice Rink.  I thought it would be novel to go skating outside in the Deep South, and for some reason I thought that it would be more convenient to pay $2 to rent skates there rather than bring my own.  I blame those brilliant decisions on a low level of coffee intake due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Bad: the rental skates at the rink.

Good: my goalie skates. (I knew this photo would come in handy someday!)

I paid far more than just the $2 for the rentals.  I paid with my dignity.  Not only were the skates very dull, they were figure skates, not hockey skates, and that meant a few minor differences (e.g., the rocker) and one very major difference: figure skates have toe picks.  I was reminded of that the hard way when I caught one of the picks and face-planted on the ice.  That was embarrassing.  It hurt, too — no pads.

The outdoor rink at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta

Once I looked past the skates, the rest of the experience was pleasant.  There were lots of Christmas lights, trees, and wreathes as decorations.  There were enough people to make it feel lively without so many as to make it feel crowded.  There were great views of the  Atlanta skyline and the bright red logo on the CNN building.

The ice was so-so, similar in feel to naturally frozen outdoor ice, but a pass with a Zamboni would have done wonders for the surface.  In a big surprise, the refrigeration system was very quiet, and it seemed to have no trouble keeping the sheet rock-solid in the 65-degree weather.

Refrigeration plant for the outdoor rink, because I like seeing how things work. The rink is in the structure on the left.

There’s a lesson here, folks: Outdoor ice can be fun, but bring your own skates.