The three-rink Kraken Community Iceplex opened on September 10, having turned the middle third of Northgate Mall into a multipurpose frozen playground. The Kraken will use it for practice. Junior hockey leagues will play games. Small children will take skating lessons. Canadian ex-pats will go curling. But don't think we awkward adults were left out—welcome to the wild ride that is a public skate. Here's how.
1. Don't be scared. Even if you haven't skated since the days when Katarina Witt scored gold for East Germany, the two-hour public skating sessions are an easy lark. Book ahead ($15 entrance, $5 skate rental) and head to what used to be the center of Northgate Mall. Parking is plentiful, but as of October 2 the Northgate Light Rail stop will make for an easy transit trip.
2. Check the schedule. The daily Freestyle sessions may sound like they welcome your flailing interpretation of a triple salchow, but those time periods are actually reserved for figure skaters to work with coaches. Stick and Puck is basically an open hockey practice, and Drop-In Hockey is game time for fully suited players. You're looking for Public Skate; make reservations online.
3. Experiment. Try both the figure skates and hockey skates; renters can swap them out any time. The former have a claw-like toe pick, useful for pushing off on each stride, and the rental desk recommends them to beginners. However, you can catch the pick by mistake and cause a crashing fall—RIP my kneecap. The hockey versions have a different feel but our bumbling crew of grown-ups liked them better.
4. Prepare to be schooled. Somehow the small children who populate the public skate, especially on weekends, pick up this crazy sport immediately. Mostly because they can pick themselves up without groaning like a Grumpy Old Men outtake. Keep an eye out, or try using a plastic dolphin sled, a kind of icebound stroller, for support.
5. Take a Zamboni break. Halfway through each two-hour session, the ice clears so it can be resmoothed. Be ready at an ice entrance after the Zamboni goes back to its, I dunno, stable; the first ones back on the ice get clean and relatively empty ice.
6. Enjoy the coast. Listen, if you want to become one of those dudes showing off by skating backwards, hands in a hoodie pocket as a low-key flex, you're probably going to need some lessons. And the Iceplex offers those! But you are not yet Surya Bonaly; on the first day out, settle for moderate speed and gradual stops (rather than smashing into the boards like Wayne Gretzky). Most falls aren't catastrophic, but head to the rink-side benches to regroup when necessary.
7. Save it for the afterparty. As should be obvious, there's no bar access from the public skate area (though the 32 Bar and Grill will open this fall). The concession stand sells popcorn and hot dogs, but the most tempting purchases come from the Kraken team store. The merch designers outdid themselves for the Kraken's inaugural season of swag. Perhaps soon they'll start selling Kraken-branded kneepads and ibuprofen bottles.