Make Hockey Happen: homemade ice hockey in Canada

Every year, Brian Ceci, Shaun Finn and their friends leave Vancouver and drive up to Green Lake, BC. Their mission? To build a hockey ring from scratch, using the frozen lake as their location. It takes them several trips to prep the ice but, as the video shows, it definitely seems worth it. Amazed by Brian’s and Shaun’s doc and their crazy idea, I decided I wanted to know more, just in case one of the next winters I decide I want to play ice hockey on a frozen lake. Here’s what Brian told us about their doc Make Hockey Happen and their journey up north.

BC: A few years ago I went to the Phillipines and met a great friend of mine, Shaun Finn.  Shaun is an excellent filmmaker and photographer and together we combined efforts to create this fantastic piece about this trip. After becoming closer with the group, I’ve been one of the lucky few to be invited to this unique experience with a group of guys that make the trip as unbelievable as it is.

R: Where in Canada do you live? How did you and your friends come up with the idea of the hockey rink? How many of you are there?

BC: Each year there’s a different number, but there was 13 of us this year, 8 from one cabin, 5 from the other. We’re all from various parts of North Vancouver, Canada.  The idea started about 5 years ago with a small 5 meter square on the frozen lake where it was shoveled by hand to be able to play with only a puck and sticks – no skates.  Over the years it became increasingly larger in size, and now it’s a full size rink.

R: Why choosing Green Lake of all lakes? What makes it special?

BC: Two of the guys have cabins right on the lake.  They mostly come up in the summer to waterski and relax when it’s warm out.  Green lake is special because where we are from the weather is actually not that cold.  In most of the cities in Canada the weather can reach close to -30 degrees Celsius, but in Vancouver, it’s usually around 0 degrees or so in the winter, so we can’t play on outdoor rinks.  It’s an amazing experience coming up to a frozen winterland and playing on a rink that you made yourself.

R: Can you describe me the process through which you “prepare” the rink? How many trips does it take and what happens during these trips?

BC: It changes every year, but there’s at least 3 trips up North to get the rink to a playable surface.  When the lake is frozen, it is very thick – about half a meter thick or so.  The first trip up is usually one or two guys who come and make the shape of the rink.  We have a ATV quad with a snow plow on the front of it which makes it easy to push snow around to make the sides of the rink – but before this, but before this, everything had to be shoveled by hand.  After the rink takes shape it has to be cold enough (at least -10 C) to make the ice surface smoother.  We have to drill a hole in the ice and pump water from the lake and flood the ice to make the surface nice and smooth – as seen in the video.  We usually come up North twice or three times before we play hockey to do this to make the ice smoother.  When we come up to play, it takes about a day to prep the rink so it’s playable – with all the boards, shoveling the ice, another flood or two overnight, and running lights down to the rink so we can play at night too.

R: What’s the most difficult part and the most fun?

BC: It’s a ton of work putting everything together.  Everyone has their own job – which is kind of funny because there’s a carpenter, an electrician and a couple chefs in the group – so they are quite good at doing their job. Probably the most difficult part is flooding at night because when everyone is up there having a great time, a few guys have to go outside – late – and flood it.  The fun part is basically the whole trip.  Hockey with your friends on a frozen lake is like nothing else – think of it as driving somewhere quiet and building a football field from scratch with a group of your friends – all passionate about football.  It’s just amazing.

R: Is there a prize for the winning team? Do you play just a game or more than one?

BC: We split up teams a bunch of times during the day.  When we’re out there we’re playing pretty much all day so it’s kind of like a pick up game.  We do have a big trophy for the winning team at the end of each day – just to keep it interesting.  Last year we added a shootout – if you lose you have to wear a pink hat that says “super bitch” on it.

R: Are you doing it again next January?

BC: Of course! I can’t wait.  We’re looking for sponsors this year to make our film even better!

R: Is there any other challenge you and your friends want to take?

BC: I think the whole thing is a challenge.  But we always try and add more elements to the rink every year.  This year we’re hoping to have better lighting at night, and more boards to bounce the puck off of.

R: List three of your favorite places in Canada and tell me why I should see them.

BC: Vancouver – Our hometown.  Some people don’t mind where they live but are indifferent.  Vancouver is an outstanding place to live.  People who have no idea what Canada is like will come here and be blown away by it’s beauty.  It is a large coastal city with huge mountains surrounding it and a really unique place to be.

Montreal – Another amazing city.  It is part of the French-Canadian part of Canada, so it has a lot of cultural diversity.  And a great nightlife.  Lots to do there and I can’t explain it.  You have to there too. Haha.

Whistler/Banff/Jasper – Whistler is about an hour and a bit away from Vancouver – it’s a great ski/mountain bike/nature lovers party get away. Banff and Jasper are in Alberta. They’re small towns in beautiful National Parks.

Canada is a place where nature is everywhere.

R: How far north have you gone in Canada?

BC: I haven’t been that far north actually.  I’d really like to make it up to the Arctic Circle one day.  But that’s it for now.  Probably the farthest north i’ve been is Prince George, British Columbia.

R: Would you suggest other people to try and do what you did?

BC: Of course!  It’s so much work – but it’s the best experience ever.  I cannot wait til next year!!!

R: Bonus question: As a filmmaker, what’s your highest ambition? Are you already working on new documentaries / videos? 

BC: Both Shaun and I do cinematography for a living so there’s always something new to make.  Canada has that natural beauty in it – so you’ll notice a lot of that in our work – however, we are dying to take the camera abroad more and film the rest of the world.  All we need is a chance to do so!


Brian and Shaun live in Vancouver, Canada. These are their websites: