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How to Play Hockey in Montreal: A Guide to Outdoor Rinks

Posted by Greg / February 13, 2011

Alain Deschamps came to me about writing an article on hockey rinks in Montreal, and I thought that sounded like a great idea. This is what he has to tell y'all...

I have many special memories of hockey growing up. I can remember the Lemieux-Jagr dream team, Gretzky nearing the end of his career, and the many Olympic teams and their various exploits. Most of us can easily recognize the NFB's animated short Le Chandail. I always had a special place in my heart for hockey and its power to bring us together. It's united me with fellow Canadians in Paris and Prague as we gathered to watch our team, and led to wild cheers on the streets as we celebrated victory and defeat. Curiously, however, I never played. As a child I was too pre-occupied with my computer games. Apart from the occasional game of street hockey, my interaction with hockey had always been through the media. So, at the age of 22, I decided to change that. I went out, bought skates and a stick, and started learning how to skate. I had skated as a child but one disastrous session of crack the whip gave my brother a series of stitches which naturally put a damper on any further family expeditions. I started by going to my local outdoor rink in my off hours and practicing. Soon, after a good many sore bums and elbows, I felt ready to take on the world! I worked up my courage to step onto the shinny rink and found myself playing hockey with 12 year olds who were dancing circles around me. It's been a slow but steady improvement since then. Now I can skate around the rink in a passable imitation of what hockey player should look like and there's absolutely no reason why you can't too! I wanted to write a guide which familiarizes both new and old players with the beautiful park facilities of Montreal this winter. It can be cold, dreary, and depressing, but a little dose of that good old Canadian pastime can really make this time of year magical.

Equipment

If you have skates already, then you are more than half way there! If not, check your local used goods sports store. I've been recommended Play It Again Sports near Vendome metro by a friend with experience in such matters. As for new gear, Canadian Tire is always an attractive option - if only because they are inextricably linked to my childhood memories about hockey. There are several locations on the island. I personally found perfectly serviceable gloves for $25 and sticks begin at around $19. I would however suggest against D'Un Sport a l'autre on Bernard in my experience as their merchandise feels overpriced for what you get. That said, it does have geographic convenience for many. I have not bought much equipment in Montreal so unfortunately my knowledge is limited here. If you have personal favourites please share them in the comments!

Rinks

If you feel like warming up in a safe and comfortable surrounding I highly suggest starting with indoor skating. I feel as if I'm giving away one of the most closely held secrets in the Mile-End when I tell you about the Aréna Saint-Louis and the Aréna Mont-Royal. Perfect for those days when it's just too cold and snowy or the first skate of the year, between 16h-17h, a freshly Zambonied sheet of ice awaits your skating pleasure. I've been frequenting the Saint-Louis rink for almost three years and only on rare occasions such as school holidays have I found it to be crowded. You'll quickly come to recognize the same crew of friendly skaters. It's a great opportunity to chit chat with fellow Montrealers!

For those of you who already have their hockey legs, there's also the possibility of playing some pick-up hockey at Saint-Louis as there is a regular slot from 15h-16h. There is one rub, equipment is required. The last I heard, you will need a helmet with full face mask, throat protector, and shin pads. I've seen all levels play but be warned, the pace they set is pretty high.

Indoor is nice and all but in my opinion the best hockey is to be found outside! There's not much that beats that magical temperature with the sun out where you can comfortably skate around with nothing but a sweater and gloves. There's a lot of magic to be had in those moments.

If you're feeling adventurous go to your nearest park and you will probably find at least one rink. Your best bet however will be the City of Montreal. Either dial 311 or visit the City of Montreal's website which issues daily updates on the condition of its various rinks.

These daily updated PDF's list the various outdoor rinks maintained by your respective arrondisement. The city generally floods them nightly and generally maintains the ice twice daily. All-in-all, the city provides us with an absolutely wonderful resource.
I have frequented three rinks in the past; Parc Jeanne-Mance (Parc @ Rachel), Parc Laurier (Laurier @ Mentana), and the newly opened Parc St-Michel (Laurier @ St. Dominique). The rink in Jeanne Mance is possibly one of the busiest. I've seen lineups 10 deep waiting for a shift on both ends of the boards once everybody gets off work. It also has a fairly well maintained open circular rink off to the side if you want to practice your stick-handling or skating. Parc Laurier on the other hand is well appointed with three different banded rinks and a fairly long but narrow skating track for casual skating. The games here tend to vary in pace starting with generally beginners and children at the smallest rink graduating eventually to the faster tempo games on the main rink. Parc St-Michel has been newly re-opened after undergoing a thorough reconstruction. The rink is large and is not yet as busy as Jeanne-Mance though I can imagine that changing soon.

I don't have much experience with the rinks outside of the Plateau area unfortunately so perhaps you can share them in the comments below.

Etiquette

I felt extremely intimidated the first time I showed up to play shinny hockey. It's hard to embark when you know you're likely to be the worst player on the ice. However, I found it to be a very enjoyable experience. I have not once in 4 years felt like I was an unwanted presence on the ice. People have been unfailingly patient and I have been the hapless recipient of too many passes to count. So, relax! Playing shinny has been an unbridled pleasure! It's nice to feel like part of a greater community - yelling and cheering with strangers 20 minutes after showing up for the first time.
The unwritten rules of shinny I have discovered are:

1) Don't raise the puck. Not many people wear protective gear so keep the puck low and don't flail your stick around blindly.

2) Don't play physical. Again, not many people wear helmets or padding so never take the body. Also, be aware of other's skill levels so you don't put anyone into a dangerous situation. Beginners will stare at the puck and might not see you where an experienced player might otherwise!

3) Have fun. Everyone is there to relax and blow off a little steam. Play nice, pass the puck, and smile.

Basically, all you need to do is show up, put on your skates, and drift over to the side boards where people are waiting to change. If there's no game started yet, mess around with a puck until it looks like people are getting antsy to play then throw your stick in the middle! That's the cue to make teams!

Admittedly, while this sounds like a very 'by your boot-straps' way to start playing hockey, I didn't do it by myself. I was joined along the way by many friends at every stage of the way. This is why learning to play hockey has been such a rewarding activity for me. I remember in Toronto skating many times a week with a close friend, and many winter outings in Montreal with others. Being in a group also helps reduce that dreaded awkwardness factor when you are first picking things up! So, get together a few of your friends and go make a fool of yourself!

Author bio: Alain Deschamps is a dude I met in Berlin who happens to be from Montreal.

Discussion

9 Comments

Patrick M. Lozeau / February 13, 2011 at 09:39 pm
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I'm suprised you didn't mention http://patinermontreal.ca/
Mark Cromer / February 14, 2011 at 10:16 am
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Excellent article, informative and easy to read. Thank you.
Alain / February 14, 2011 at 01:53 pm
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First I've seen it Patrick! Thanks for sharing!
Robin / January 11, 2014 at 02:50 pm
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Hello.
I am 24, new in Montréal from Europe and I just started playing hockey, and just like you I love playing hockey outside. But I would like to play on a more regular basis, and thus would like to join a league. Do you know if any such league for begginners/intermediate players exists in Montréal?

Thank you for your answer,

Robin
Priti / February 4, 2015 at 01:00 am
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It beats the heck out of sitting home and piyalng video games in the house, not getting any exercise. The brain isn't the only body part that needs stimulation. Become a whole person as far as exercise, strategy, making friends, getting the respect od peers and adults for sticking it out and making mistakes to become a better player. Becoming a champion in life is more than book learning.
auto insurance / April 4, 2015 at 12:41 pm
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GarthLWigham / September 5, 2016 at 05:51 pm
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Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thanks a lot,
However I am just encountering troubles with your RSS.

I don't understand the main reason why I cannot join it.
Can there be anybody having identical RSS issues?
Anyone who knows the remedy will you kindly respond?
Thanks!!

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