The sound of blades on ice echoes off the houses surrounding Westmorland Park on Madison's west side. Holiday lights twinkle through the branches of the park's massive oaks as Ken Wiesner, Tom Jefferson and Dave Blouin painstakingly shovel loose snow and ice from the park's hockey rink.
"A few of us come out each night, skate around, play a little hockey and then we make ice," says Blouin, the Westmorland Neighborhood Association president, as I lace up.
The ice is immaculate; there are no cracks or bumps. Anyone who skates on Madison's outdoor rinks knows how rare this is. Wiesner brings out the hose and lets me try a few passes. "It's a light sweeping motion. We're not flooding tonight, just patching up some of the cracks."
The Westmorland operation is a new partnership between the city and the neighborhood. The city laid down the rink base and supplied the hose and shovels, but volunteers handle day-to-day maintenance. This cuts costs and results in ice that approaches the quality found in indoor arenas.
"The city crews need to flood rinks in the morning because that's when they work," says Wiesner. "But that's not a good time to make ice. You want to do it after dark so it sets up overnight."
On Tuesday, the Badger men's hockey team held an outdoor practice at Elver. They may have settled for second best.