OTTAWA -- It’s a Canadian pastime: what better place to lace up your skates than your very own backyard?

With a hockey and skating season facing lockdowns and restrictions and families looking for ways to get outside safely, many have taken to building their own backyard rinks.

The Pretell family came to Canada 10 years ago.

“We didn’t know about winter sports; in Peru, there’s snow in the mountains, but not in the city,” says Monica Batallanos-Pretell.

It’s their second year with a backyard rink, and during COVID-19, she says, “it’s been our lifesaver.”

Being new to the idea of flooding your backyard with ice required some work.

“It was a lot of research, but totally worth it,” she says. “It’s very fun, cause you’re playing with your dad and my sister; we skate a lot, play games,” says 11-year-old Rodriguez, who skates with his 6-year-old sister.

During the pandemic, an outdoor rink ticks a lot of safety boxes: households only, and physical activity outdoors.

Under Ontario’s new stay-at-home order, backyard rinks are allowed. The province says they are limited to five people, including members of your household.

The Burnett family, backyard rink veterans, decided to expand theirs this year.

“With COVID this year, we said - mmm, I think it’s a requirement,” Allison Burnett says. Her son Devin practices his plays on it.

“We’ve had it before, and we just thought that hockey was going to get cancelled again, so we just thought it was a good idea to put in a rink,” Devin Burnett says.

It’s the first year for the Melenhoirsts’ rink. They were busy running their farm, so they hired a company to build a rink — in their barn.

“They’re well equipped, they come with the trailer; they have all the tools, they were in and out - it was a days’ work,” says Hugh Melenhoirst. “We just wanted to build it to have our own rink in the backyard; and, Just to have some fun and expand his hockey skills”

His son Brantley thinks it’s great. “Working on my hockey skills, and having fun with my dad.”

And while building a rink yourself might seem simple, it is not.

“It was so laughable, if I hadn’t laughed - I would’ve cried at just how much of a disaster this experience was,” says Louise Lewis-James. “I forgot to turn off the water on the inside, so when I tried to fill it up again the next day, the pipes were frozen.”

She ended up having to run a hose from the basement, which caused its own issues.

“It spilled water all over our basement; including all over the television and gaming console.”

And even though the rink didn’t turn out perfectly, the effort was worth it - the family created a slide in their winter wonderland instead.

“They’re on screens all day, so they’re not getting enough exercise; so the slide gets them outside twice a day for recess, and sometimes into the night.”