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Family's Massive Outdoor Skating Rink Draws Crowds

By  Justin Breen and Kyla Gardner | January 13, 2015 6:02am 

Sauganash Backyard Ice Rink
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DNAinfo/Kyla Gardner

SAUGANASH — Peter Gallagher never hibernates indoors, even on the coldest days of winter.

That's because the 16-year-old St. Ignatius College Prep sophomore has a giant hockey rink built on his parents' home's property in Sauganash.

"If I'm bored, I can just go out and play. I'm not bored anymore," said Gallagher, who said he spends as many as six hours a day on the 80-by-40-foot rink erected by his father, Gerald, a Chicago Fire Department captain at O'Hare Airport.

Justin Breen says the players will play past midnight some nights:

Peter Gallagher isn't alone. Some 80 children ages 10-19 from the neighborhood and friends of the Gallaghers have frequented the rink this winter. This past week's brutally cold weather was actually a blessing for the rink rats, who one night played hockey until 1:30 a.m.

 Some 80 children of all ages have used the 80-by-40-foot rink on even the coldest days this winter.
Some 80 children of all ages have used the 80-by-40-foot rink on even the coldest days this winter.
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Mary Cook-Gallagher

"We all get together and have a fun time, and it's just fun hanging out with the Gallaghers on the skating rink," said Christian Carini, 15, of Sauganash and a Loyola Academy sophomore. "You don't have to drive to a rink here; it's right in the neighborhood, and you can just walk right over."

Gerald Gallagher always wanted to have a rink at his home, and he first installed one five years ago. The ice is surrounded by plywood boards covered by a tarp.

This year, Gallagher's wife, Mary Cook-Gallagher used her connections from her Lakeview-based interior design firm Mary Cook Associates Inc. to help install 25-foot LED lights for night skating.

The Gallaghers said they don't mind the constant puck-against-board noise, which they said sounds "like a rifle going off." And, no, the neighbors haven't complained about the noise or night lights either, Cook-Gallagher said.

"I'd rather the kids be here and doing something like that than sitting idle somewhere else," Cook-Gallagher said.

The Gallaghers' home has turned into a hockey surplus supply store of sorts. They have acquired 30 pairs of skates, sticks and gloves, with 50 pucks and a pair a hockey nets. There's so much equipment — including a full arsenal of broomball sticks — that there's no room for vehicles in their two-car garage.

Jimmy O'Kane brings his own equipment from playing hockey for Notre Dame College Prep's team. The 15-year-old sophomore from Edgebrook loves coming to the rink because it's fun ... and free.

"My teammates are jealous because they have to pay to go play outdoors. I don't," O'Kane said.

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