The outdoor rink constructed by Nicholas Witkoff in his backyard in Brunswick. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — The makeshift rink, now in its sixth year of operation, is hardly Olympic-sized.

Of course, that hardly matters these days, when indoor ice time is almost nonexistent because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There was no question we knew that we’d be around more this winter, so we dusted off the old boards and put them back on,” said Nicholas Wilkoff, who resides on Maine Street in Brunswick.

The outdoor rink in the family’s backyard serves as a personal paradise for Nicholas’ children, 15-year-old Hannah and 13-year-old Peter.

“To have something like this in our own backyard is awesome,” said Hannah, who skates on the Brunswick High School girls hockey team.

Across the Midcoast, families are getting creative by making their own backyard hockey rinks to provide an outlet for children during the pandemic. With local ice rinks restricting access to the public due to guidelines and regulations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, residents in both Brunswick and Topsham have gotten creative in helping create a place to skate and stay active during the winter months.


“Anyone I know who has ever done a rink has redone it this year, and I have seen a lot of new people doing it too,” said Nicholas Wilkoff, whose rink measures 24 by 42 feet — an Olympic-sized ice sheet is 85 feet by 200 feet.

The Wilkoff children occasionally invite friends over to participate in some socially distant activities.

Youth hockey players skate under the lights on Tuesday night at an outdoor rink by the Topsham Indoor Recreation Facility in Topsham. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

“This year we stick to HORSE or shooting competitions, but in the past we’ve played some 1-on-1 or worked on our stick handling with each other,” said Peter Wilkoff.

In Topsham, another ice rink is available for public use on the corner of Lovers Lane and Bay Park Road, with lights over the rink to shine  at night.

The rink in Topsham measures about 100 feet by 40 feet on a portion of a small pond.

Matt Backman utilizes the rink as much as he can, whether it’s with his friends or with his children.


“It’s nice to have a place to play a game of pond hockey with some buddies, or take my kids out for a skate,” said Backman.

Another outdoor rink is open to the public in Topsham, located outside of the town’s Indoor Sports Complex, or “The Dome.”

Midcoast Community Ice, a nonprofit that formed in 2019, helps maintain the outdoor rink.

People skate on the outdoor pond off Lovers Lane on Tuesday night in Topsham. Eli Canfield/The Times Record

Bill Patterson, a spokesperson for the organization, said that while the goal is to build an indoor rink at the complex, the outdoor complex is a step in the right direction.

“In the meantime this rink was already here, we just had to ensure it was being maintained,” said Patterson. “This is our third year doing this, and more than ever it’s a perfect fit.”

Teams with players of all ages have been utilizing the rink, Patterson added.


While it’s been a warmer winter than usual, Patterson said he’s had some trouble with the ice earlier in the month. However, it’s been in great condition thanks to some colder temperatures of late.

“We’ve had water in here for about six weeks and weren’t able to skate for the first five,” he said. “It was definitely nerve racking, but finally with the cold weather for the past 10 days or so it’s in really good shape now.”

Nicholas Wilkoff had a similar issue with his backyard rink in Brunswick.

“It was a little bit of a rough start, but it’s actually been easier to maintain with the lack of precipitation around here,” he said. “You definitely watch the weather more than normal when you have an outdoor rink.”

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