It’s not huge, but the 17x32-foot ice rink that Brian Wierson built in his backyard provides his two children with a great place to practice their hockey skills this winter.
Wierson, who lives several miles south of Nevada on S-14 with his wife, Annie, and their children, Josie, 14, and Charlie, 5, is all about being on the ice. A former Iowa State hockey team standout, who later served as associate head coach of the Cyclone hockey program until he resigned in 2011, has been involved with the sport since he was 8 years old. As a father, Wierson now enjoys supporting his childrens’ efforts in the sport and helping with the teams they play on.
Both Wierson children play in the Ames Minor Hockey Association. Josie plays at the Bantam level, where she participates in around 50 games, including five tournaments, during the season, November to late March. Charlie plays at the Tykes level, where kids are busy learning hockey skills at practices twice a week, and then have the opportunity to play in the Iowa Games in late January.
Using plywood to build a frame, and a tarp, measuring about 50x25 feet, Wierson constructed an ice rink right outside the family’s back door. "It’s just basically a big bathtub," he jokes.
The important thing in building any size of rink is that you have land that is basically flat. After that, you put down a frame and then it comes down to water and temperatures low enough to freeze it. "There’s probably ways you should do it," Wierson said, admitting he follows no expert instructions. For him, as long as there is cold enough weather, you can get the job done.
In December, Wierson was able to spend two nights putting in the rink. "You should use hot water if you can," he said, and adds that he did so until his hot water ran out. Wierson put about six hours worth of water from the hose into the rink on both nights, equaling 12 hours of running water in all. Then, he said, he put a couple more hours worth of water in it on a third night to fill in the cracks.
By putting a net at one end of the rink and a bunch of hockey pucks at the other end, the homemade rink offers a place for both children to work on shots - much like a basketball hoop in a driveway works for a basketball player. Because Charlie is younger and smaller, the rink is big enough for him to work on some of his skating skills — like edges, crossovers and stops — as well.
Josie said she uses the rink for practice several times a week. "I usually go out before practice and on weekends when we don’t have games," she said. Her favorite thing about being in the sport of hockey, she said, is the road trips with her teammates.
For Brian and Annie, hockey is a huge part of life, with games and practices taking over a lot of their winter time. Brian, who now works in sales for the Renewable Energy Group in Ames, gave up his coaching career at Iowa State to spend more time with his family. Coaching hockey at ISU kept him on the road for much of the year, and it was time for him to be at home more. With his background in playing hockey and hockey coaching, the Ames High School graduate, who was a member of the 1992 IHSHL All-Star Team and put in two years of Junior Hockey in Fargo, N.D., before playing four years at Iowa State, would probably have no trouble renewing a bigtime hockey coaching career if he ever wanted to.
Annie, who works at the Curt Forbes Halfway House in Ames, also has a background strongly related to the sport of hockey. She and Brian met in her hometown of Roseau, Minn., when Brian was coaching the high school team there. "Roseau is a big hockey town," Annie said. While girls weren’t allowed on the hockey teams when she was growing up, she did a lot of ice skating and played hockey recreationally with her friends.
Josie and Charlie both started skating at the age of 2. Josie gave up the sport for awhile after her brother was born, but when he started getting involved with it, she felt the urge to get back into the family sport this past year.
For Brian and Annie, it’s fun to see their kids enjoying something they enjoyed so much. And it’s fun to be able to provide a small place for the kids to practice. "I wouldn’t want it (the practice rink) much smaller than this, but it’s fun. I’m really glad we have a place for it," Brian said.