Coburn, 42, who grew up playing hockey in his native Rochester, N.Y., said backyard rinks are the hot new thing among hockey dads in the Washington area, as the number of youngsters involved in hockey has skyrocketed in recent years and ice space is at a premium. (Some locals think this is because of the popularity of the Washington Capitals and their star Alex Ovechkin and call it “the Ovechkin effect” or “the Ovechkin factor.”) The number of kids ages 8 and younger playing hockey in the region has increased 74 percent in the past five years, according to USA Hockey, the governing body for the sport.
Michael Weiss, 25, a Potomac resident who coaches for the Montgomery Youth Hockey Association, said the number of beginning players has more than doubled since Ovechkin arrived in Washington in 2005. Four families in the club, including the Coburns, have installed backyard rinks in the past year, he said. They range in price from $10,000 to $40,000.
“I think they want more ice,” Weiss said. “It’s something cool to have, and they have the money to buy it. The kids love it. The game has just become so popular here.”
Coburn says he’s looking forward to spending less time ferrying his sons, ages 7 and 9, to the Rockville Ice Arena, where they play travel hockey.
That’s small comfort to some neighbors, who still don’t know what the winter will bring.
Lindsay, 73, has owned the house next door since 1988 but rented it out five years ago when he remarried. He has kept close tabs on the rink’s construction and says residents are worried about the possibility of large skating parties or practices and increased traffic in the cul-de-sac, which is near Foxhall Road and has towering oaks and beeches. “It’s been a kind of an upheaval of a quiet street,” he said. “Something that had never happened before.”
Coburn said Friday that the rink is to be used by his sons and their friends and that he is looking forward to putting the matter behind him now that the permit issue has been resolved. “Complaints aside, my neighbors’ children are welcome to come over and skate over the holidays,” Coburn said.