Yesterday on our walk, Tom and I took a swing around Noonan Park to add an extra half mile to one of our same-old-same-old routes. And Holy Zamboni, the rink rats are back!
In another month or so, usually during Christmas vacation, the Park Department will put up the official hockey boards and the official hockey nets—but who can wait until the ice is 100 percent safe and neatly chiseled smooth by the Park Department Zamboni? A few quick cell phone calls, a text message or two—the word is out to bring a couple of shovels, drag two nets out of somebody’s garage—and presto, change-o. Noonan Pond is a hockey rink. All it takes is the sound of one stick smacking on the ice, one puck sailing through the air, and the rink rats start gathering.
They’re dressed in a motley collection of hooded sweatshirts and stocking caps. Usually one hot-blooded showoff is out there in a t-shirt. Somebody parks an old blue Corolla in the street, leaves the door open with a CD blaring Disturb’s “Indestructible,” and the rink rats have heavy metal accompaniment.
Across town at the multi-million dollar indoor hockey facility, coaches hold tryouts. The organized teams in their matching jerseys play at pre-determined times against other teams brought in from neighboring towns in big diesel-burning buses. But at Noonan’s Pond, anybody who is old enough to hold a stick and bold enough to step over the snow ridge on the makeshift rink gets to play.
“The ice is thin!” the authorities warn. “Stay off the ice until the ice is at least four inches thick.” Of course, Noonan’s Pond is knee deep at its deepest; the biggest hazard of falling through is finding yourself up to your knees in goose poop and green algae. But the rink rats don’t mind; their sticks have been taped and their skates have been sharpened since October, just itching for somebody to start a game of pick-up hockey at Noonan’s.