Timidly, I balance on white figure skates as I shuffle down a carpet of black rubber at Teresa K. Hilander Community Ice Rink in Sister Bay. Skates laced tight, knees stiff and posture awkward, I take tiny steps towards the gleaming layer of ice.
“Didn’t you grow up in Minnesota?” asks my friend and skating partner, Loren Wilde.
“Give me a minute.”
I consider myself a confident ice skater, what with growing up ten miles from the Canadian border, where ice rinks are as abundant as lakes (and we skated on those too). Yet, apprehension grips me – comparable to entering chilly Lake Michigan water mid-summer; you know once you submerge the water will feel fantastic, but it takes fifteen minutes of standing on tip toes and running away from waves and splashing swimmers before you dive under the surface.
Finally, I slide out on the ice, dig my pick in and take off. A man with black figure skates glides around us, spinning and swirling with ease while three teenage boys race down the length of the rink in hockey skates. Two little girls bundled up in pastel snow pants and coats balance on their tiny skates with the help of their mother. Three men sip coffee or hot chocolate from Styrofoam cups, resting on benches by the facility’s new fire pit, accessible from the ice.
Loren teaches me the physics of spinning. I latch onto him when the spinning results in dizziness. We exhale and inhale the brisk winter air.
When we decide to conclude our skating venture and head to Husby’s for a beer, Robbie LeClair is behind the counter to put away our rented skates (a mere $4 a pair) and offer us concessions that rival any movie theatre’s – candy bars, hot chocolate, popcorn, Gatorade, and pizza.
“I like this job a lot,” says a smiling LeClair. “Everyone comes here to have a good time. They come here to skate, they come here to enjoy the ice – it’s a place where people can connect.”
The rink hosts those wishing to partake in a leisurely skate, as well as broomball games every Wednesday and hockey every Tuesday and Friday. These activities are weather dependent, however.
“We like cloudy days,” says LeClair. “We like the temperatures to be below freezing.”
While LeClair tends to a group of women looking to rent skates, Loren and I awkwardly adjust to the sensation of wearing our regular footwear. We decide we will rent some hockey sticks and a puck next time – this Minnesota girl plans to show up that Wisconsin boy.
The Teresa K. Hilander Community Ice Rink, located at 111 Autumn Court, is open Monday – Friday, 4 pm – 9 pm, and Saturday – Sunday, 10 am – 9 pm. Equipment for ice skating, hockey, and broomball are available to rent. For more information call 920.854.7014.