54-year-old Karoly Jakab is helping inspire kids and adults to be more active — both physically and in their community — thanks to his homemade rink that now serves as a community attraction. Jakab built the Olympic-sized rink in hopes of getting community involvement, and it now plays host to an under-10, under-12 and adult men’s team.
By Jennifer King
Deep in the mountains of Transylvania exists a small village where…
If this sounds like an opening to a new Dracula novel, rest easy. It’s not. Instead it’s more like Field of Dreams – a tale of a hard-working man who brought his favorite sport close to home.
Karoly Jakab, 54, was working as a farmer when he decided to build an outdoor ice rink in Csikszentimre, a village in Romania of around 2,000 people located about 250 km north of Bucharest, the capital. He lives there with his wife of 31 years, while his three adult children have since moved to larger cities in Romania and Hungary. The village is a mountainous settlement where much of the population, like himself, has careers in agriculture, and the weather is similar to Ontario’s, as it sits at the same latitude as Sudbury. His motive for building an ice rink for the village was simple. “My belief was the rink was necessary to motivate the children and adults of the village to choose fresh air and not sit in front of a computer,” he said.
The first rink he built was near a local church where he used water from the nearby river. It was a process that took three days and nights with the help of the local volunteer firefighting team. “The rink was not the most successful, (in regards) to the quality,” Jakab said. “But we enjoyed playing on it. The joy was short lived though, because the river flooded the rink and it became impractical.”
So Jakab moved the rink closer to home – his actual home, to be exact. By moving the rink onto land he owned, he wouldn’t have to pay rent, and it was also an easier location to make the ice. The rink is Olympic-sized and is open from December to January.
It was a bit of a learning experience running his own rink, as equipment was few and far between. During the first year of operation, the rink had no bulbs to light it, so Jakab said they had to use the headlights of a tractor.
As the rink grew in popularity, however, changes were made to help make it accessible at all times. Jakab said the mayor was very supportive in helping fix the lighting, and now everyone can skate into the evening. They also use referees for games involving the men’s team that plays there.
It’s progress like this that helps fuel Jakab’s ambition to make the rink a success. It also helps continue his childhood dreams of being involved in hockey. In his younger years, he was passionate about the sport, but his dreams never “materialized.” “My will remained, though,” he said, “and that helps me maintain the rink.”
Jakab has been able to live out his childhood dreams with the people of his community. It’s now home to different teams such as the under-8 and under-10 squads and also an amateur senior team that Jakab founded called the “Hawks.” He chose the name because “the hawk attacks its prey in the same way our little team attacks the opponent.” He also is proud that his under-10 and under-12 teams got to participate in the Romanian Hockey Olympics recently.
Despite the rink’s success, however, there is still work to be done. “It would be great if we had an artificial skating rink because the demand exists,” Jakab said. “But unfortunately, the funds are lacking.”
Jakab is hoping he can eventually get machines to help create the ice because currently it’s being made by hand. Additionally, they are using his garage as a change room as they lack their own building to house one. He believes that if the rink is fixed, it can help increase the performance of the children who play there. “Right now it’s just a beautiful dream,” he said. “I would love to see the children advance who have skills in this sport. It would be a moment of great pride for my village and I.”
For now, Jakab is cherishing the effect the sport and the rink is having on the community. “The children have all made many friendships and their families are there watching too,” he said. “Ice hockey is helping the children develop in a healthy way.”
To find out more information about Mr. Jakab’s rink visit: http://www.sasok.ro/