Wilmette resident Kevin Smale always wanted a backyard ice rink.
A self-described hockey fanatic, Smale spent much of his youth playing outdoor hockey with his brother and friends in Ontario, Canada. His stepfather, Bruce Hood, was a NHL referee who was the first ref in NHL history to officiate 1000 games.
Smale acquired his backyard rink after attending a fundraiser for his children’s school. “I didn’t go to the fundraiser thinking I’d buy an ice rink,” said Smale. “But when it came up for auction, I jumped at the chance.”
For Smale, the best part of having the rink is doing something he loves with his 3 children, Paulina, Clark and Raquel. “Sure it’s great to get them outside and away from the TV,” he said. “But for me, the best part is just being with them on the ice. At night, we turn on the lights, turn up the music and play.”
In addition to the ice rink, Smale also won an afternoon practice session with former NHL player and U.S. Olympian, Ted Drury. During the practice, Smale’s children, along with their friends and neighbors, had a chance to play against the hockey great which included a “nail-biting” shoot-out with Drury as goalie.
Although winter will soon end, Smale’s hockey dreams are not going away. When the temperatures heat up, he’ll drain the rink and store it in his garage until next year. “This is definitely something we want to have every year.” Smale said. His wife, Michelle agrees. “Just wait,” she adds with a laugh, “maybe next year we’ll turn the swing set into a penalty box.” When I asked Michelle if she ever imagined one day she’d watch her children play hockey against a former NHL player in their own backyard, she gave me a knowing smile. “Well,” she said, “I’m married to Kevin, so nothing surprises me when it comes to hockey.