During the cold winter months of Saint Paul, there is a mecca that kids of all ages flock to with religious fervor. Mecca is Groveland, the king of neighborhood ice rinks.
Drive down St. Clair Avenue anytime day or night, and witness the packed rinks of pickup hockey, toddlers pushing plastic chairs in a circle, and packs of tween girls in huddles, observing packs of tween boys.
Each year the all-volunteer crew of the Groveland Booster Club erects three rinks on the elementary school playground, surrounded by a track of ice perfect for pulling a tiny skater on a sled. We went there one evening—two adults, our two young sons, and our two-year-old daughter.
The boys, proud of their mini-mite moves, hoped to play with the “big guys” in one of the pickup games. They were in luck. Two junior high–aged girls approached the boys and asked if they’d like to make teams with the others gathered on the rink.
They were elated, of course, and in the ancient tradition of hockey players everywhere, they placed their sticks on the ice. The girls divided the players into teams by selecting sticks by length, one by one. Our boys, ages five and six, became teammates of their father, one of the young women, and an adult couple. Both teams passed to the boys, and cheered them when they scored.
The boys were in heaven. Or Mecca. Sometimes a sparkling night on the ice can be both.
Barbara Cox lives in the Mac-Groveland area with her husband, Joe, and her three young children. She has the kind of zeal for the city often found in those raised in the suburbs. Her favorite spots in the city include Mattocks Park, the River Road bike trail, and Candyland.
Andy Singer is a Saint Paul illustrator who has contributed more amazing images to the Almanac than one could realistically shake a corn dog at. His website can be found at www.andysinger.com