‘Field of Dreams’ on ice: Eagle’s outdoor ice rink is an 80-year tradition
January 17, 2018
EAGLE — The great stuff doesn't change much, and that's why Andy Clark and a bunch of dads spend winter nights in Eagle Town Park with fire hoses in their hands, making sure one of Eagle County's oldest traditions continues.
Clark and all those other dads now stand where dads have stood for 80 years, smiling through a winter evening spraying water through a fire hose and building an outdoor ice rink.
"It's like 'Field of Dreams' on ice," Clark said. "Every kid who skates on this rink should know that someone is doing this for them."
'Eagle gets it'
When we caught up with Clark, he was in his Alliance Moving Systems office surrounded by hockey stuff. Clark is a Minnesota guy who migrated to the mountains several years ago. He has been coaching hockey in the valley since 1987 and has been involved with the Eagle ice rink since 1990.
Eagle's outdoor ice rink has been part of Eagle's town park since Eagle built its town park in the 1930s.
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"Guys were doing this 80 years ago. We're not that much smarter. It's still two dudes with a hose," Clark said.
It's a volunteer effort, and always will be, Clark said.
"Eagle gets it. It was around before us, and it will continue long after us," Clark said. Every weekend kids are playing, and 20 or 30 adults are gathered around the fire pits.
"It's nice to have venues and events where you can catch up with people you've known for years," Clark said.
The good old days are today
Dads used to flood the ground, which worked for decades. WECMRD donated a liner a few years back, and sideboards sort of evolved, dad style, which means dads built them employing power tools and tall tales. Both are time and energy well spent.
Alliance Moving Systems pays for everything. Someone else did it all those years ago, and some other hockey dad will do it in coming years, Clark said. One of Clark's 48-foot Allied trailers stores the liner and sideboards.
Speaking of hockey dads, a couple of weekends ago, former Colorado Avalanche player John Michael Liles was skating around. Liles' dad was cooking hot dogs.
"It's a hockey dad who jumps in and starts cooking hot dogs for anyone who wants one. No one knew who he was. That's what makes it special," Clark said.
It's now called the Tom Ehrenberg Memorial Rink, and why wouldn't it be? The plaque needs to be bigger.
"Every town needs a bunch of Tom Ehrenbergs. They see what most of us don't, and just set about getting it done," Clark said.
Ehrenberg and Clark started an annual pond hockey tournament in another town that ran a few years before lawyers and other professional fun suckers put a stop to it.
The tournament migrated to the Eagle Town Park, where it runs the Friday and Saturday before New Years, when kids are home from college and can play. Clark plays with his two sons.
"Guys in their 50s and 60s remember skating at the park when they were young," Clark said.
This year has been "unique" for ice making.
Nighttime temperatures need to be below 20 degrees. They've had that since early December. The lack of snow might be tough on skiing, but it's great for making ice.
"No snow and cold temps at night have been perfect for us," Clark said.
Dads can flood it about an inch and a half to get started. After that, it's about a quarter inch a night.
The Eagle Fire Department loans them the hoses, extracting a solemn vow that the dads will be careful. They are, but sometimes stuff happens and the hoses managed to get a couple holes in themselves. Seriously, that's how it happens.
All the dads had to do was ask, and the fire department came up with a couple more hoses, handing them over with a smile and another solemn vow that no harm will come to them. So far, so good.
Standing in the snow on a winter evening, watering an ice rink, helps put things in perspective. The dads sometimes ask philosophical questions about how we can save our world. They're standing on their answer.
"The answer is hockey. Let's play!" Clark said
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.