It’s good and cold. January cold. The ice is thick, hard, smooth. The skates are sharpened. For Minnesota sport enthusiasts that can only mean one thing: pond hockey.
This weekend, teams from across the country (and the world) will take the ice for competition in many hockey divisions in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships on Lake Nokomis, “the way nature intended.” Growing up beyond Minnesota’s borders, I don’t have the same connection and memories that pond hockey has for many athletes, young and old, in and around the Twin Cities. Hockey is a part of their athletic DNA and it only seems natural that our area would host an amateur tournament for weekend players—yet the tournament doesn’t have a long history.
In 2005, Fred Haberman, co-founder of the marketing agency Haberman, came up with the idea when he thought fondly of his younger days playing hockey with his friends on a frozen creek near his home. If such a tournament existed, who would play? Who would come and watch? In 2006, the first event took place: 120 players from around the globe entered, drawing tens of thousands of spectators to watch players on more than 25 rinks shoveled atop the ice of Lake Nokomis. (Appropriately enough, the winning teams are engraved into a golden shovel.)
The tournament has only grown since its first year. As their website states, ESPN says “there’s no better place for a sports fan to be, and no better time to be there.” And Sports Illustrated has even called it “perfect.” Even if you aren’t participating, being on hand to view the amateurs compete in a game they love can only bring about warm feelings about your community. Warm being the operative word. The current tournament organizers share more about the event in this YouTube video:
P.S. If you want to learn more about pond hockey, a documentary was recently released on DVD featuring Wayne Gretzky and onetime Minnesota Wild star Marian Gaborik.
U.S. Pond Hockey Championships
January 18-20, 2013
Schedule of Events