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Ice Skating, With a 3,000 Year History, Remains at Great Way to Enjoy Winter

February 2, 2015

Antigo Daily Journal

Antigo Daily Journal

For folks who enjoy the sport, there’s nothing better than a frozen pond or a glistening sheet of Zamboni-honed ice.

Ice skating may be among the most perfect ways to beat the winter blues, whether it be an outing with youngsters, figure skating in an indoor rink, or a rough-and-tumble pick-up hockey game.

And Antigo’s the ideal place to do it.

“I personally love ice skating,” Sarah Repp, the city’s recreationist-in-chief, said. “I have great memories of hours spent on lakes and rinks skating and playing hockey. My dad would take us ice fishing and he would always remember to pack my skates and shovel out an area, so I could skate in between jigging for fish.”

Antigo’s got a long tradition of skating, fueled by the Antigo Area Youth Hockey Association, which has taught generations the sport first at the old outdoor hockey rink at Lake Park (remember that old trailer used for the waming house?) and more recently on the indoor ice in the multi-purpose building at the fairgrounds. That project was financed largely by community fund-raising, gallons and gallons of chicken dumpling soup and thousands of pretzels sold through the concession stand.

There are also many fond memories of the big rink on Antigo Lake, complete with a warming house, lights and music. That venue drew hundreds per day during the 50s and 60s.

For the more outdoorsy, the city’s park and recreation department maintains three rinks, each catering to different groups of skaters.

Those rinks have honed plenty of excellent skaters, including some present and past members of the Red Robin hockey team and Repp, who skated on the inaugural University of Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team.

“It was an amazing experience,” Repp said. “I really have Coach Scott Thoreson to thank for letting me practice with the boys during the summer and contacting the Badgers. Being in good dry-land shape got me on the team.”

That tradition continues today.

“We all learned the program through youth hockey but we also skated a lot on the community rinks as kids,” Ben Jansen, a member of the Robin hockey squad, said. “It’s just something you do in winter.”

Robin coach Matt Borneman agreed.

“A lot of my skaters did skate at the public rinks,” he said.

Repp recommended the Peaceful Valley Rink located at 420 Field Street and within Peaceful Valley Park, as a great place to learn and teach little ones how to move across the ice.

“When the kids need a break and a chance to warm their toes you can head to the heated warming house with interior restroom facilities,” she added.

The warming house was built with donated funds from Mr. and Mrs. Edward Stasek and is one of the many improvements the Peaceful Valley Park area has seen within the last 10 years. The area also includes the Rockin' Robin Playground, benches along the Springbrook trail connections, tree plantings and a large municipal parking area for community events. And in a few months, there will be a new outdoor pavilion too. All the projects have been completed with heavy doses of volunteer dollars and sweat equity by users.

Skating is encouraged into the evening hours with a light that illuminates the rink. The warming house has posted hours and the door automatically locks at the designated time.

A few blocks north and west of Peaceful Valley is the outdoor hockey rink located off of First Avenue and within the Railway Activity Park.

“It’s a great place to practice hockey skills,” Repp said. “This rink also has lights for evening play, which is great for those wishing to meet after work or school and play pick-up hockey before heading home.”

The construction of the rink with the boards was a cooperative effort between the city and youth hockey.

Allison Lund, an alumnus of the Antigo girls’ hockey, team said she and other college friends meet for games at the rink.

“Over Christmas vacation we get together,” she said. “We’ve gone to the rink and there will be high school kids playing and we’ll get into a pick-up game. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to stay in shape and enjoy outdoors.”

Third Ward has a large rink available for those who want to enjoy a skate within a neighborhood parks, and there’s nothing wrong with a little ambiance.

“The lighting is not as bright in this location, but this can make for a dramatic evening skate as you feel the wind rush by and the sound of your blades on the ice below,” Repp said. “ It always feels as though I am moving a little faster under the moonlight, and the brisk evenings help clear my mind and put me in a great mood.”

Ice skating is actually among the most ancient of sports, dating back 3,000 years to southern Finland. Those good Scandinavians knew how to beat the winter blues, using sharpened, flattened bone strapped to the bottom of the foot.

(An aside here: Imagine a young Finlandian skater coming home, lamanting to his mother that ‘the dog ate my ice skates’.)

Young nobles—similar to Antigo’s hockey elite today—took up the sport in the 1600s in Holland, and soon everyone was enjoying the action, using long wooden skates twice the length of their foot. It jumped to England by the mid-1700s, mixing the need for fast wintertime transportation with a bit of fun and competition. The rest, as they say, is history.

Just for fun, let’s add some physics.

According to the university set, a skate can slide over ice because the ice molecules at the surface cannot properly bond with the molecules of the mass of ice beneath and thus are free to move like molecules of liquid water. These molecules remain in a semiliquid state, providing lubrication.

In layman’s terms, ice is slippery.

Whatever the reason, it remains among the most popular wintertime activity.

For those who don’t have skates or wish to try skating in an indoor environment, check the park and recreation website ( for Open Skate dates and times at the multi-purpose building at the fairgrounds. Limited supplies of skates are available. Volunteers are also available to answer questions. Open skates are free with the donation of a canned good.

“Don't be afraid to take those first strides on the ice and enjoy an outdoor skate on any of the rinks,” Repp said. “ The majority of my college friendships were made at the rink. I may not always stay on my feet, but I always have a great time.”

Beating the Blues in Antigo is a limited-term feature examining how to enjoy the wintertime at home, without even leaving the city limits. Stay tuned because over the next few weeks, the blues crew will be sledding, snowshoeing, and maybe even trying a hand at pickleball. For comments or suggestions, e-mail us at

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