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It has painted boards, a heated dressing room, sound equipment – and a loyal following from the family that built it on their property near Hamiota, Man., to while away the winter

Friends of the Rawlings family face off in a rink built in an old sheep barn.Photography by Tim Smith for the Globe and Mail

Building a backyard skating rink is a Canadian tradition, but the average do-it-yourself setup is just a plain wooden rectangle filled with garden-hose water, about as similar to a real hockey pad as a toboggan hill is to the Rockies. For Dave Rawlings, that wasn’t good enough.

In an old sheep barn on the Rawlings family’s 16-acre property, about 13 kilometres west of Hamiota, Man., Mr. Rawlings has created a miniature hockey arena complete with boards, painted lines, a sound system and a heated dressing room. “I built it so the kids would have somewhere to skate without having to worry about the weather,” he said.

The rink, which he crafted with help from his father over the past two years, measures 24 feet by 36 feet – a fraction of regulation size, but big enough to fire the imaginations of his two boys, eight-year-old Sam and five-year-old Matt, who play junior hockey with the Hamiota Huskies. On the boards, Mr. Rawlings painted the logos of the two businesses his family owns in Hamiota, Rawlings Home Hardware and Rawlings Furniture, as well as logos of businesses the family owned in the past, going back to the 1940s. The only outlier is a logo for Rawlings Sporting Goods, an American sports-gear giant that happens to share the family name.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, a few friends braved the cold and joined the Rawlings family for a skate. Although the temperature outside was -30 C, the thermometer in the rink read a mere -15. Sam and Matt played shinny with some teammates, taking breaks to eat kielbasa, cheese and other snacks in the dressing room.

As the rest of the world grapples with crisis after crisis, the Rawlings clan can be certain of at least one thing: As long as the air stays cold, they’ll always have hockey.

The barn, which lies on the Rawlings' property west of Hamiota, Man., now contains a 24-by-36-foot rink.

Ian Fortune ties skates for his son, Max, 5. The barn's dressing room has stools and benches, equipment for preparing and serving food – and heat, which the rink itself does not have.

Dave Rawlings, who built the rink with his father, keeps a tally of how many times his family has played here. He first laid down ice in 2019, but the arena setup took shape over the following two winters.

The dressing room includes framed hockey cards of Dave Rawlings's sons, Sam and Matt, who play in different age groups for the Hamiota Huskies.

Matt Rawlings, 5, waits for a shot on net from Max Fortune. 'It’s usually one family at a time for a dinner and skate,' Dave Rawlings says.

Sam Rawlings, 8, gets his gear ready. He will serve a penalty during this game of shinny with his friends, with periodic breaks for snacks.

The rink's boards bear the logos of the family's current and past businesses in Hamiota, a community of just over 1,200 people.

Outside, it's close to -30 degrees; inside, it's about -15. 'I built it so the kids would have somewhere to skate without having to worry about the weather,' says Dave Rawlings, who can be seen through the window.


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