On my way to the historical society tonight, I noticed that the Pine Meadow ice rink, located on the green, was full and frozen. This rink generally appears in January and depending on the weather can last through February or even into March. It is an ideal place for that first time trying out skates or a hockey stick.
Years ago, there were a number of options. Before 1936, the Greenwoods pond above the center of town provided excellent skating, though it was also used for ice manufacture which tend to limit some areas. But at over two miles long, this was hardly a serious issue. This was a mill pond with a consistent flow.
It is not recorded, but it is possible that the power canal for the Chapin Company, which ran through Pine Meadow behind Wickett Street, was also used for skating. Certainly, the numerous other small mill ponds located in town also provided good spots to skate. The mill ponds located on the Nepaug and other tributaries tended to freeze fairly consistently, since they lacked springs. This, of course, was the problem with West Hill Pond, which is spring fed and therefore can have odd patches or, worse, holes in the ice.
The Farmington River below Pine Meadow could also have some decent skating locations on it, especially in the area just before the Canton line. Upstream, on the East Branch, the Compensating Reservoir was also used for skating at times, after the completion of the dam in 1919. However, it too had springs and, as a major source of water power (hence the local name of Compensating) was prone to abrupt draw downs that led to cracked or buckled ice.
Home made rinks could also be created when the weather cooperated. Ben Warner recalled in his book ‘Pike Place’ that if the weather conditions were right and the ground froze solid before a heavy rain, their old orchard would flood and freeze. Hockey pucks could be manufactured from frozen cow-flops; the real article being hard to come by.