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Riverside ice can teach you a hard lesson

MOLINE -- The ice of Riverside Park's lagoon is hard. Trust me.

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Todd Mizener

Low-tech is the way to go when playing hockey with your friends on Riverside Park Lagoon. Goalie Robert Griffin defends the `net' -- a picnic table -- against a shot off the stick of Mark Ramos. The Moline lagoon attracts both skaters and aspiring hockey players on cold winter afternoons. The number of hockey players has significantly increased in the last two years with the arrival of the Colonial Cup champion Quad City Mallards.

On a recent ice-skating outing, I was on the 2.4-acre pond for all of three seconds before confirming the truth about ice's second-most-important property.

The only thing harder than the ice was the laughter of three boys, amused that I am gravitationally challenged. It wasn't the first time I would fall that day, but it was the only time I was actually the butt of a joke.

Once I regained my balance and achieved some kind of form, I sort of glided across the ice.

Skating in the great outdoors is something that will never lose popularity. This site does not offer a cavernous rink with signs touting soda pop, pizza and pee-wee hockey. Riverside Park's only luxury is a pond-side building with restrooms and a warming area to escape the cold.

There are no sideboards, only the pond's banks. Beyond them, 5th Avenue lies on one side and 4th Avenue on the other. No music fills the ears, only the burble of conversation and the occasional calls to fellow skaters.

Riverside offers only the simple beauty of a winter day.

As I skated along the north side of the pond, I watched the drivers in cars traveling west on 4th Avenue.

A few of the drivers glanced toward the ice activity as they drove by. It was a glorious day. The sun oversaw a cloudless blue sky that boasted no breezes. It was a beautiful day to take advantage of a frozen pond with plenty of room to roam, experiment and flop around. I did all three.

I wondered if those drivers envied us. I would. What a wonderful way to pass an afternoon. I and more than 50 other skaters on the ice played hockey, pirouetted, and just tried to get from place to place.

The expanse of the Riverside ice is an advantage for beginning skaters, among whom I must -- unfortunately -- count myself. There is room to try new things. For me, it was how to stop.

I have to admit I have skated at the Quad City Sports Center. There, among the throngs of skaters, it is best to just skate straight ahead and, if necessary, use the sideboards to stop.

At Riverside, like countless other ponds -- big and small -- that now attract growing numbers of skaters, there is room to turn, stop and, in all likelihood, fall without the fear of causing trouble for other skaters.

The Moline pond opened for skating in mid-January after a month of up-and-down weather that kept the ice from freezing. Since then, the pond has offered skating day and night.

It did not take me day and night to figure out the stopping thing. However, putting it to use was another matter. I often tumbled to the ice, landing on my elbow, knee, hip and backside during practice, but I did learn to stop.

Pretty slick, huh?

-- By Kurt Allemeier (January 26, 1998)

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