Installing a seasonal rink is easy, affordable and conducive to great times.
JIM STOLLER, president of NiceRink, wants you to close your eyes and imagine yourself on a winter night, stepping into your backyard, walking down a walkway, past a lighted-up fire pit, down to the foot of a frozen pond that you made all on your own.
It’s the imagery authors dream of writing and the “frozen memories” Stoller said his company not only makes, but prides itself on.
“One of my big things is we’ve been around since 1991. Our family business has been around since 1948. We’re fourth generation. Plastic sheeting is our background, so that’s how we got started,” Stoller said. “It’s just being in love with the ice. With that, it became a passion. I coached. … I was a director at a club for a couple years. This isn’t just a business. This is my life. If you want to talk hockey or skating with me, I’ll talk all day.”
Stoller is not kidding when he said hockey is his life. He played in the USHL, coached and was a club director. He has his own children now and encourages them to play hockey, behind the mantra, “If you can walk, you can skate.”
He looks to help you along with your hockey aspirations — whether they be for competitive reasons or for family enjoyment — through NiceRink.
NiceRink provides the tools for you to create your own backyard rink.
The company sells plastic interlocking sideboards, rink brackets and rink liners. Packages cost as low as $340, and the brackets and sideboards are products that can last a lifetime, just like your “frozen memories.”
“I’ve had my brackets since 1998. That’s 16 years. Those are going to last virtually forever if you keep it out of the sun,” Stoller said. “The only thing that will have to be replaced is the liner because it’s a thin plastic liner. You’ll still put a hole in it. We try to get the best and strongest plastic at a good cost. We want the best materials but that you don’t have to break the bank to replace it.”
While the plastic liner might need to be replaced, Stoller notes that the piece is more than just a liner or tarp you can go to the hardware store and get.
“Our liners (are) top of the line and are used just for this purpose,” he said. “Our liners, we’ve developed and tinkered with different types of materials to come up with the best solution. Our liners aren’t something else. They aren’t being faked to use it for this. We developed the product specifically for this. You can go to the hardware store and get a blue tarp, but chances are they aren’t going to work and you’re not going to get them big enough.”
The products might be specially designed for this product and to last as long as possible, but that doesn’t mean they’re overly complicated to put together.
“You stick the NiceRink bracket in the ground and you’re done,” Stoller said. “With the plastic boards they lock right in. With plywood it’s recommended to screw the plywood into the bracket.”
“The liner is the easy part,” he added. “You get the boards and brackets set up before it gets cold. Once it gets cold, like low 20s, high teens at night, and low 30s in the day, unroll (the liner), unfold it, it takes 30 minutes. Put your hose in it and let it fill up.”
It seems like even though there is so much technology available for people in this day and age, there is a growing desire in creating “do it yourself” projects.
NiceRink fits the DIY mold and provides plenty of memories from playing on it, but Stoller insists it also creates opportunities to make memories while putting it together.
“You get all the equipment together and it becomes an annual family tradition. You pick out, say, a Saturday, take three or four hours and get the rink together,” he said. “The kids are bugging the parents in July asking if it’s going to be cold enough this winter. It’s a sense almost like Christmas. The excitement starts to build when the leaves start to fall.”
NiceRink packages range from 20-by- 40-foot-rinks to NHL regulation sizes.
The project is yours to create, but Stoller offers an explanation on why he prefers shorter boards for NiceRink.
“A lot of people ask about why our boards are so low. I didn’t want this big obtrusive rink. I want to see a frozen pond but also contain the game,” he said. “Eight-to 16-inch boards are fine. For me, all I see is ice and small bumper caps. That’s fine. I don’t want to see a construction project in my backyard. That’s not what we designed our product for. It’s not for checking.”
The NiceRink website features a number of videos on how to build your rink and put together the pieces. The company also works with different regional landscaping companies and pool companies that can install the pieces for an additional price.
Stoller has gotten great feedback from customers about how easy the rink was to set up and how much families enjoy putting it up together and skating on it. NiceRinks has been used on a bigger stage as well.
In an article on ESPN.com in 2009, sportscaster John Buccigross wrote that he “bought all of (his) backyard rink material from www.nicerink.com in 2001.”
The company also supplied the boards and brackets for the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships.
People of all competition levels use and enjoy NiceRink, and it further emphasizes just how durable they are.
“They’re using those outside in freezing temperatures with adult hockey players, so they stand up great,” Stoller said.
Long-lasting products, provided by a family business for long-lasting family memories. That’s the business NiceRink is in.
It’s what Stroller wants to share with everyone else. “Not everyone is a construction worker or carpenter and knows how to put things together. To have that aspect where they don’t have to build something is just a life saver,” Stoller said. “It’s just the longevity we’ve been around and the experience we have. It’s a simple product and effective product.”