There's something different about the outdoor rink that's inherently Canadian and impossible to replicate on arena ice.
Certainly, the purpose of the game is the same. You skate, you pass, you shoot, you score and then you win or lose -- that doesn't change.
But the subtleties of the outdoor ice make hockey a unique experience, like the much deeper cut in the ice with your skate blade, the bouncing puck, the buildup of snow on your blade and that satisfying ting when the puck goes off the crossbar in -25 degree weather. When the permafrost sweeps across the nation, Canadians take advantage of the giant ice rink in their backyards.
Frequent outdoor rink user Ryan Blanchard was quite verbose in his love for the Canadian pastime. "The ODR provides an outlet for players, whether they be professional or recreational, to enjoy a measure of competitiveness while maintaining a relaxed attitude. I personally enjoy the odr because people you meet on the ice share one thing in common -- their passion for the game. We're willing to brave the elements, shitty ice and sometimes less than spectacular teammates just for some fun."
Blanchard said the core of the odr is the type of environment where you can be competitive, but there's never any ill will. He said when you suit up for a competitive game in the arena, you're going out there to win, but when you chuck on a toque and skates and go to the odr, you're going to have a great time.
"You go out there with some friends and you relish the opportunity to just do whatever," said Banchard. "Try a couple of moves and slash each other's ankles when you want -- just being able to screw around is what's fun."
The behaviours of those who frequent the odr create a tangible atmosphere unlike anything else. You won't see six-year-olds playing baseball with random strangers in Calgary anytime soon. The ODR has an unwritten code and people follow it -- it makes the experience enjoyable for everyone.
No matter the odr, there are characters that are continually present. For the most part, no one wants to be 'that guy' -- but when it comes to the odr, there are always 'those guys.' Of course, there's the superstar -- the guy who is better than everyone else and had big dreams to make it to the nhl.
Then there's the red eye -- the hyper-competitive skater that's everywhere and yelling at everyone. There are more, but the beauty of the odr is that it acts as a leveler for every type of 'that guy.'
Generally, the ice of the odr is awful, yet, it's part of what makes up the experience. The adaptability of players is yet another phenomenon of the outdoor rink -- no matter how bad the ice is or how cold the winters are, there will be people. Maybe it's not so much adaptability, but a stubbornness born out of the love of the game.