Oak Park family keeps cool with backyard ice rink

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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

It isn't easy passing the time in your backyard during an Oak Park winter — unless you're the DeCaro family.

The DeCaros, like many fellow hockey enthusiasts, installed a small ice rink last year in their backyard to keep their kids entertained and skills sharp.

The three sons, 16-year-old Eric, 11-year-old Will, and 8-year-old Michael, play hockey while their sister, Katie, figure skates. Well, at least when her brothers let her squeeze in some ice time.

The DeCaros certainly aren't the only Oak Park family with this backyard perk, as Eric knows four other OPRF hockey players with similar outdoor rinks. Still, having their own keeps their addiction to hockey strong.

All the children started skating at young ages when their father, John, signed them up for classes. Each of the boys picked up hockey and didn't turn back; Katie stuck to figure skating.

"I just fell in love with it," Eric said, who plays for OPRF and might play club in college. He also plays lacrosse, baseball and indoor soccer, but hockey remains his favorite.

"It's awesome," he said about having the rink. "The first season we got the ice rink I saw a jump in my skills."

The contact, the competitiveness and the adrenaline rush are what Eric said keeps him in the sport. He limits the contact in the backyard rink since the walls are short, but this doesn't prevent an occasional flip of one of his brothers over the side. It also doesn't prevent the occasional puck flinging into the neighbor's yard.

As for Katie, she enjoys the rink to have a few friends over and getting some free time to figure skate. She remains a good sport in the family of three brothers.

"There are a lot of boys around," she said. "They take up a lot of time."

Last winter's warm temperatures limited ice time, but this year the DeCaro children are hard to bring inside. Age doesn't matter in the hockey matches, as Eric and a friend will often team up with Michael and Will, a goalie for his Chicago Blues club team. Michael plays on a Franklin Park team. Eric towers above the younger ones, but they hold their own.

"It doesn't hurt," Will said. "As long as you don't get hit you're fine."

At least, don't get hit hard, he clarified.

Will and Michael agreed that when they aren't playing for their own teams, they love coming home from school and getting on the ice right away. At home, they make the rules.

"We really do whatever we want as long as it's open … and our mom says it's OK," Will said.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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Mike from Itasca  

Posted: May 29th, 2013 12:39 AM

Iron Sleek makes building a backyard rink easy.

OakPark Parent  

Posted: February 10th, 2013 6:45 PM

Longfellow was skatable for 3 days that is all. As far as the basketball courts, I wish they would get rid of the one at Longfellow. It more problems then it is worth, fights, drugs, cops there all the time. Let the Decaro's skate!

Marty from Oak Park  

Posted: February 7th, 2013 1:08 PM

The tennis courts at Longfellow park are flooded for skating. Heard the ice was in great condition last weekend.

Mr. Parking Permitter  

Posted: February 7th, 2013 11:26 AM

I do hope they are melting it down each night.

Where did you skaters haters come from?  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 5:04 PM

We've already lost some of the public basketball courts that were popular in days gone by, and the tennis courts are no longer flooded for public skating...do you expect young people to spend all their free time sitting on their hands in front of the Almighty Television in the winter?! Would you take ALL of the fun out of life for everyone with permits and more taxes? Good for the DeCaro family! working on keeping the endorphins up and the obesity epidemic down with their athletic skills.

Mr. Taxman From Oak Park  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 1:58 PM

Did the family pay the Backyard Hockey Rink Fee for this?

Mr. Safety from Oak Park  

Posted: February 6th, 2013 9:14 AM

Did the family get a permit for this?

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