Tips for staying safe on and around ice
The safety of ice can be deceiving, but with these tips, you can stay knowledgable and prepared.
I don’t know what it is about ice skating, but there’s a big nostalgia factor for us adults who don’t get out on the ice much anymore.
Maybe it was that story many of us read in school, “Hans Brinker; or, the Silver Skates: A Story of Life in Holland.” Speed skating along a frozen river for the prize of a beautiful pair of silver skates sounds so romantic.
Or maybe you remember pickup hockey games as a kid in your neighborhood. The “Miracle on Ice,” when the U.S. won gold at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, certainly sparked the dreams of many a skater.
It was nothing fancy, but my high school friends and I still reminisce on Facebook about winter days spent skating at our local park that was flooded just so we could skate on it. We’d freeze our buns off and then warm up by a fire somebody built on the ice. Then we’d do it all the next day.
Growing up in suburban New Jersey, ice skating for us was like a trip to the country. A brook ran near my parents’ home, and when it froze, we could skate for several miles. If we got tired, branches that stretched out across the ice created nature’s perfect resting places. We relished in the adventure of discovering a whole other world along the way.
Seeing what was in the yards that backed up to the brook as we glided along made us feel we were the first ones to come upon the scene. There was one yard that had a Japanese-style garden with a small footbridge that spanned the brook. The garden seemed so out of place to us, like we’d stepped through the looking glass. A few years ago, I learned that the 1915 silent movie “Madame Butterfly,” starring Mary Pickford, as well as other films, were filmed there. Now, that was exotic!
Where were our parents? Certainly not skating with me and my sister. In those days, kids were allowed out alone all day until suppertime.
We would often skate as far as the next town, where the brook ran behind the local Sears. To us kids, it seemed like miles and miles, but it was probably less than two or three. There were no cellphones then, and once in a while we would skate so far it was dark by the time we returned home.
In Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” — I love the film with Winona Ryder best — skating on thin ice is the cause of one of the story’s most dramatic moments. Our “Green Brook” was also deep enough in places to be a little bit dangerous if you fell through the ice, so there was always that thrilling element.
Not cold enough for pond skating
Over the years, various flood prevention projects on the brook reduced its flow, and winters there no longer get as cold to freeze it. I’m sad for today’s kids; how much they miss.
Here today in MetroWest and Greater Milford, outdoor skating is also weather- and snow-dependent. If we have a cold enough winter, folks scrape out an area on some local ponds to play hockey or take a turn. But there’s always a safety factor — our ponds are deep — so be sure to check with your local recreation or police department about ice thickness.
A few families have backyard rinks and a few towns sometimes build outdoor rinks at a local park or the center of town. The results aren’t always the smoothest — again, the weather — and vandals sometimes take it upon themselves to ruin everyone else’s fun.
If you have higher aspirations for a hockey or figure skating career — and an extra $4.1 million — you might want to invest in this Sudbury home that comes with its own covered sports court that can be turned into an ice rink. The Zamboni, boards, glass and all can be purchased extra from the sellers, according to the real estate listing.
It isn’t cold enough yet for outdoor skating here. Below, we’ve cobbled together a list of (mostly indoor) area rinks that have public skating, many with hours during school vacation week. Be sure to check the websites or call because hours can change. Some of the websites — ahem — could use a little work.
165 Fountain St., Framingham
Public Skate: $5
Skate Rentals: $6, available weekends only. Call the skate shop for availability, 508-872-8238.
Info: 508-532-5950; https://www.framinghamma.gov/1017/Public-Skating
Hours: Dec. 21-23, 9 a.m. to noon; No public skating on Dec. 24 and the arena will be closed on Christmas Day. Hours on Dec. 26 are 2-3:45 p.m. Public skating hours Dec. 27-31 are noon to 2 p.m. each day. Children 12 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Masks are required at Loring Arena at all times, on and off the ice while in the arena.
451 Bolton St. (Route 85), Marlborough
Public Skate: $6; skaters 62 and older skate free with ID.
Skate rentals: $6, available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Info: 508-624-5580; https://fmcicesports.com/rink/marlboro-navin-skating-arena/
Hours: Public skating hours are 12:30-2:20 p.m. Monday-Friday; 2:30-4:20 p.m. Saturday; and 3:30-5:20 p.m. Sunday. Hours may be different during vacation week, so be sure to check the website. Currently, there is no mask mandate at Navin, according to the website.
William L. Chase Arena
35 Windsor Ave., Natick
Public Skate: $6
Skate Rentals: $6, available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Info: 508-655-1013; https://fmcicesports.com/rink/natick-william-l-chase-arena/
Hours: General public skate hours are 1-2:30 p.m. Sunday; and 1-2:20 p.m. Monday-Friday. During school vacation week, hours are 1-2:20 p.m. Dec. 27-28 and noon to 1:20 p.m. Dec. 29-31. Masks are required at Chase Arena, both on and off the ice, at all times, according to the website.
Pirelli Veterans Arena
910 Panther Way, Franklin
Public Skate: $6
Skate rentals: $6
Info: 508-541-7024; https://fmcicesports.com/rink/franklin-veterans-skating-arena/
Hours: Public skating hours are 12:30-2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; 2:30-4:20 p.m. Saturday; and 2-3:50 Sunday. On Jan. 1, hours are 2:30-4:30 p.m. Currently there is no mask mandate at this rink, according to the website.
Blackstone Valley IcePlex
121 Plain St., Hopedale
Info: 508-478-6423; https://fmcicesports.com/rink/blackstone-valley-iceplex/
Public Skate: $6
Skate Rentals: $6
Hours: Generally, 3:30-5:20 p.m. Sunday. During school vacation week Dec. 27-31, public skate time is noon to 1:50 p.m.; and on Jan. 1, public skate is 7-8:50 p.m.
Patriot Place Winter Skate
2 Patriot Place, Foxborough
Info: 508-203-2100; https://www.patriot-place.com/tenant/winterskate/
Email: [email protected]
Public Skate: $10 adults, $6 children 12 and under and seniors 65+. Call for group rates, private events, season passes and discounts.
Skate Rentals: $5
Hours: Open through late February. Hours are 4-9 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 4-6 p.m. Thursday; 4-10 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, Sunday. During school holidays, hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The rink is closed when the Patriots have a home game.
The 60-by-140-foot professionally maintained rink is outside near the CBS Sporting Club and the Patriots ProShop and is designed for recreational skating, not hockey or figure skating.