Growing up in a small town near the shore of Lake Ontario, Chris Collins has seen firsthand how the lake effect snow can pile up and how far the winter temperatures can dip.
He’s quick to point out that the winters in Fairport, N.Y., were harsh.
But the summers… that’s another story.
To the north of Fairport is Lake Ontario and to the south are the Finger Lakes and New York wine country. When the weather got warm, Fairport transformed from a cold, winter locale to a charming small town that was actually once named one of the top places to live in the country. With so many lakes nearby, fishing and boating are big in Fairport. There’s also plenty of golf courses and even a canal running through the middle of town that is home to a summer festival and the sight of numerous quaint shops.
Life in Fairport was good for Collins. His family spent plenty of time in the Finger Lakes region where he fished the days away in pursuit of one really big fish. And even the winters weren’t that bad, considering his family’s tradition of backyard hockey rinks that eventually evolved into Collins’ father starting up an indoor rink right in the middle of town. Talk about a perk for a hockey player.
Player: Chris Collins
Hometown: Fairport, NY
Type: Small town
Population: 5,353 (2010 Census)
Distance from Wilkes-Barre: 206 miles
Let’s start with the bad. What are the winters like in Fairport?
“It’s basically on Lake Ontario, so we always had a ton of lake effect snow and it is always cold. The winters are pretty harsh.”
And the good?
“The winters aren’t the greatest but the summers are unreal. You have the Finger Lakes, Lake Ontario, the wine country. Tons of golf courses. It’s a nice place to live in the summer.”
Well, wouldn’t there be a bright spot as well in the winter as far as playing hockey?
“Hockey-wise it was great. I grew up with a rink in my backyard and it’s a big hockey community, like the towns in Canada. My dad always had a rink in the backyard, and before that my grandfather always built a rink for my dad.”
Wasn’t there another place to play some outdoor hockey that didn’t involve a backyard rink?
“The Erie Canal. It goes right through the center of Fairport. Before my grandfather built a rink for my dad, they always skated on the canal. I skated a couple of times as well. The town has a winter tournament every year on the canal and they build a bunch of little rinks.”
What did you do outside of hockey while living in Fairport?
“My family has a cottage an hour and a half north where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River, still in the same region as Fairport. Our cottage is right next to Don Cherry’s (Hockey Night in Canada personality) and we’d go up there and go boating and fish a ton. We’d go for walleye, pike, bass and the little perch which are good to eat. But I was and still am always on the hunt for a muskie. I try for one every summer but never get it. I did have one on my line once but we couldn’t land it.”
Money Magazine listed Fairport as one of it’s top places to live in 2005. Does that surprise you?
“No. It’s a small little town where everyone knows each other. You have the bridge over the canal with all the little shops - a typical small town but an incredible place to grow up. I go back and go to all the same restaurants and everyone knows you. It’s fun.”
Would you like to move back to Fairport at some point?
“I’m not sure what I want to do career-wise yet after hockey, but Fairport would be a great place to raise a family. All of my family is there and my dad owns a hockey rink right in the center of town, so that’s a good home base for me. I could definitely see myself living in Fairport as I get older and when it’s time to raise a family.”