Monday, 29 February 2016

Skates & Donuts - a Winnipeg Thing

Being ten minutes early for an appointment in 1972 changed Roy Laham’s life. He had some time to kill, so he popped into the business next door to his dentist’s office on Osborne Street. That business was Fort Rouge Sporting Goods, and that very day, he ended up making a deal to buy it.

For the next 17 years, Roy ran the sports store. For a man who grew up playing baseball, soccer, skating, broomball, and bowling, it might have been a dream job. So by the time The Forks Market opened in 1989, he had acquired lots of skates. Learning that The Forks’ vision included a skating rink, he got out of retail, went into rentals, and the rest is history.
The very first tenant at The Forks Market, Roy was drawn to it because he liked the notion of markets. For 15 years in the 70's and 80's he ran Old Market Square and its flourishing summer markets. He began Iceland Skate Rentals out of the current Muddy Waters building with 30 pairs of skates. Inside the main building, he opened Mini Donuts and Danny’s restaurant – named after his son, who now manages the donuts.

Photo by
Iceland has long since moved inside the main building beside the Mini Donuts, renting skates, helmets, sticks and pucks, and providing skate-sharpening service, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. His rental prices are reasonable because he wants to keep the activity accessible to everyone. He also rents kids’ skate trainers– a frame to help kids learn to skate. 

Roy gets satisfaction from seeing smiles on peoples’ faces who are introduced to skating and recalls some special memories along the way. Like the young couple who got engaged on the trail one Valentine’s Day. Or the year the skating trail stretched a Guinness Record-breaking length from Churchill Drive all the way to Assiniboine Park. Then there’s the movie Beethoven’s Christmas Adventure, which contains a scene at The Forks showing Roy in the background making his delicious mini donuts.

As for skating, Roy admits he hasn’t skated the trail in a while himself – but promises to do it again this year. Who knows, he might even be accompanied by his two teenage grand-daughters, whose school pictures are proudly displayed on the beverage cooler. 


  • If you left the mini-donut machine running nonstop, it would churn out 240 dozen donuts per hour.
  • Iceland Skate Rentals has an inventory of 200 pairs of skates, 100 pucks, 24 helmets, and 20 sticks – all but one of the sticks are left-handed.
  • Roy not only makes people smile with skates and donuts,  he also helps people save lives. His other business pursuit is manufacturing survival kits for vehicles and aircrafts.
  • Roy provided Donny Lalonde with boxing tape at the height of his career. 

Monday, 22 February 2016

A Vacation Day in our Own Backyard

Sometimes you don't know what you have until you look at the things around you through a different lens. That's what Erika did when she took her family out on the Red River Mutual Trail on Louis Riel Day. The result wasn't just a good time with the kiddos and some great photos, but an appreciation for what seems to be the everyday.

"While we tend to find winter activities a little boring, it was fun to see others experience winter. We watched a group of Japanese students marvel in the excitement of their first snowball fight, and saw many first-time skaters navigate the ice on shaky legs. It's so easy to take what's around you for granted - this is something that I in particular need to work on. Experiencing a winter day like this one is something many people dream about, and it's literally in our backyard..." 

You can read more about Erika's family adventures on her blog here.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

How to #EmbraceWinter Sans-Skates

Your knees buckle, blades slide back and forth without actually propelling you forward, and you can't stay upright to save your life. Here's looking at you, folks who aren't fans of skating. We feel your pain (falling on the ice hurts can sometimes cause a bruised bottom). So when you're at The Forks in the winter and you aren't feeling like putting on those blades of glory- it's no biggie! Here are five things to do at The Forks if you're not inclined to the favourite Canadian pastime.

1. Tobogganing

Our hill is BYOT — bring your own toboggan. Come be a kid again, or bring the kiddos, and zip down on a Crazy Carpet, disc, or a good ol' fashioned wooden toboggan that fits all your friends. Extra points if you go for big air.

2. Stargazing

Did you know that the Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks is a naked eye observatory? Cool right?! Bundle up, bring a blanket and some binoculars, and take it all in. While you're there, check out the featured constellations carved into the armatures.

3. Hiking

The Red River Mutual Trail (RRMTrail) isn't just for skating, there's also a packed snow path on the sides of the trail for folks to walk on. If you're not feeling like struggling on a pair of skates, go for a brisk walk on the beloved RRMTrail, while skaters fly by on the ice.

4. Biking

White Pine Bicycle Co. in the Johnston Terminal rents fat tire bikes that can tackle snow no problem-o. Plenty of people in Canada can probably say they know how to skate, but how many people can say they've gone for a brisk bike ride in the dead of February?

5. Picture This

While this isn't as physical as skating, you'll be working out your arms by snapping some pictures. Whether you are taking cute couple photos under the canopy of lights on The Forks Historic Rail Bridge, posing in front of one of the Warming Huts, or capturing the memory of your outdoor outing, The Forks is the best location to take fun photos. Use the hashtag #MeetMeAtTheForks to let us know you've stopped by, we love seeing what you're up to!

After spending the day outside sans-skating, you'll absolutely want to warm up. Don't forget to come inside to The Forks Market for a hot beverage and a treat.

Skates or no skates, there's no reason you can't #EmbraceWinter at The Forks.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Do You Speak Skate?

I love skating. Growing up, I played ringette (ahem, provincial champ in 1991.) Though, for some reason, as an adult, I never went out and skated much. Outdoor hockey rinks are great, but that loop can get pretty small pretty fast. Thats why I love the Red River Mutual Trail. Currently 3km long, the trail extends all the way to Churchill Drive, winding its way through the city while offering a new perspective. I love experiencing Winnipeg gliding along the ice connecting one riverbank to the other. I dont expect to see the Banana Boat ice cream shop directly across from my old running path in Norwood Flats. Everything just feels so much closer and connected. Every time I skate, I always see something new.

Though its in the middle of the city, the trail feels remote and exotic and the prairie horizon seems endless. Peppered with warming huts, there are many opportunities to sit, visit, adjust your skates or even have a snack! Designed by people around the world, the warming huts are fantastic interactive installations of art and architecture. They are all so very different, you really have to see them to believe them! Aside from a selfie at a Jets game, Im pretty sure this warming hut is probably the most photographed winter thingin Winnipeg. There are 14 warming huts out on the ice for you to experience!

When the trail recently opened, I was eager to gather old friends and new friends together for a skate date! Our new friends are very new, as in new to Canada a few weeks ago new. Naima (8) and Mustafa (10) are part of a family of 10 who recently arrived from Saudi Arabia. I wanted to invite them out and show them how we play and embrace winter in Winnipeg. And, I just love bringing people together through activity. Its one of my favourite things to do. The activity becomes the common ground. You dont have to speak the same language- smiles and gestures go a long way.

Rounding out our skate crew:
University of Calgary speedskater: Ruth
Lockports finest skating instructor 2003-2009: Haley
4-year-old: Lucie
Skateboarder: Bob

So, after getting our skates tied up (rentals available in the Iceland Skate Rentals at The Forks Market, $5 adults, $3 children and seniors) we buddied up and headed down past the ice circle (a great spot to find your ice legs too!) down to the river. Skate rentals are popular on weekends, so get there early! I also highly recommend a good pair of wool socks to keep those tootsies warm! After all, not much is fun when youre cold.

When we arrived at the river, we were all eager to hit the ice! My skating instructions for newbies is basic: bend your knees! (the universal sports adjustment.)

Naima and Lucie were able to secure themselves with these fabulous red chairs (a warming hut called Recycling Words). A must try for all new skaters, little ones, or when you just feel like taking a break! Chairs are free and available on the ice on a first come, first served basis.

Taking Lucie for some serious spins.

Ruth and Haley were excellent elbows to lean on for Naima.

Meanwhile, Bob and Mustafa were mostly holding each other up. But once Mustafa got a hold of a chair, watch him go!

Naima leading the group through the snow maze!

Bob and Ruth surveying the scene.

Bob and Mustafa taking a well-deserved break.

We were so busy on the trail we didnt even make it up to higher ground! Arctic Glacier Winter Park has snowboarding, tobogganing and even more skate trails. I just love how accessible all the activities are for everyone. No cost, just show up. The best way to play.

Being outside, moving with people is relaxing and is one of my favourite ways to connect. As Naima and Mustafa are just learning English, getting outside and playing are one of the ways we can come together in our community. We dont need to speak the same language to skate together!

I love seeing all of Winnipeg come out. All families, ages and abilities coming together in our big old backyard at The Forks. Fresh air, making new friends, holding each other up and trying new things. It just feels good. Its the best place to be.