Nets, Sticks and a Tennis Ball

There’s a back lane behind our house. It’s an unusual feature on the west coast, and presumably it’s a reflection of the neighbourhood being at least a hundred years old. As children have done for at least that long, there’s a couple of kids who haul nets, sticks and a tennis ball into the lane to play hockey. They’ve even chalked out a little ice rink, with faceoff circles and a centre ice line.

As you probably know, the NHL playoffs are winding down. In fact, if Detroit beats the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night, they’ll hold aloft their fifth Stanley Cup in 12 years–a remarkable feat.

I was walking down the lane the other day, and noticed a new addition to the chalk-and-cement rink. Somebody drew an oversized, stick-wielding bird with legs akimbo at centre ice:

Mellon Arena on Concrete

The lane is sloped, so you pay a price when you miss the more southerly net. I instantly recognized this as a kid’s decent interpretation of the Penguins’ logo, which appears at centre ice in Pittsburgh’s Mellon Arena:

Here’s another view, for some perspective. Clearly the kids are pretending to be Crosby and Malkin, not Zetterberg and Datsyuk.

I was a pretty solitary kid growing up. I preferred to tape out a goal on one wall of our two-car carport, and shoot tennis balls at it from the far side. If a ball took a particularly bad bounce, it ended up on the steep, wooded slope between our house and the neighbours. I had to psych myself up to retrieve those wayward balls. The neighbours had a surly Doberman named Sasha, and she didn’t care for children.

Mellon arena photo by EnsErmac.


  1. Wha? I’m not sure which part of the West Coast you’re thinking of, but there are back lanes ALL OVER Greater Vancouver.

    Maybe not in some of the new subdivisions and downtown developments, and maybe not on some of the steeper parts of the North Shore, but those are the exception. Certainly throughout the street grid of much of the city and its suburbs, back lanes are everywhere. Trundle through Google Maps satellite view and you’ll see,

    1. I’m sure you’re right. I grew up on the hilly North Shore, and so saw very few back lanes. That said, back lanes are even pretty rare in our neighbourhood in Victoria.

  2. That photo of the makeshift rink made me smile. I can’t wait until my son is old enough to know the importance of the storied street hockey calls: “Car!” and “Game on!”

  3. Lanes are very rare in Victoria, and even more rare in the surrounding municipalities.

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