U.S. Pond Hockey Championships: Staging Their Own Winter Classic
Move over Winter Classic…there’s a new game on the pond in the State of Hockey.
While the NHL’s Winter Classic may have come and gone on New Year’s Day, they’ll be no shortage of outdoor hockey this weekend on “The Pond” in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Pond hockey enthusiasts from throughout the county descend on Lake Nokomis Park for the 10th annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championships.
An amazing 232 teams with names like Penalty Box Brawlers, Healthy Scratch, and LaGoon Squad comprising five different divisions (Open Division, Cedar Division, Rink Rat Division, 40+ Division, and Women’s Division) will compete for top honors on 25 outdoor pond hockey rinks (yes, it’s quite a sight to behold) built side-by-side on the glittering frozen sheet of ice on Lake Nokomis. Players from throughout the U.S. make the trek to Minneapolis (this of course, is a big part of the fun and tradition…getting there is indeed half the fun) in order to take part in the festivities.
Games are played simultaneously on the rinks during the first two days on competition, with low, 18-inch “boards” and home-made goals (there are no goaltenders in true pond hockey) while referees determine which team last touched the puck when it goes out of bounds in order to award possession.
Okay, perhaps a quick overview of pond hockey rules are in order here for your more traditional NHL-style fans.
First, games are 4-on-4 with no goalies and with goals six feet in width (small 12” openings on either end of goal to score). Games consist of two, 15-minute running halves. There is no stopping or “guarding” of the goal crease allowed. No checking is allowed. There are no offs-sides or icing. Goals must be scored from the attacking end of the ice and in the event of a penalty shot, they will be taken from center ice. And of course, in the true spirit of pond hockey, the ice is shoveled by the two opposing teams prior to the start of the game.
The festivities begin as the teams arrived on Thursday (don’t be late as the Warming Tent closes at 9 p.m.) with the puck dropping on the tournament Friday morning and concluding with the championship games and award ceremonies on Sunday. You can follow the tournament by visiting the website or on Twitter or Facebook (the Twitter feed is great). There’s even a mobile app you can download from the website.
The true spirit of the weekend is best captured by Fred Hoberman, founding commissioner of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, who said, “We love pond hockey because it’s the way nature intended, outside, in the elements, during the absolute coldest time of year…playing with others who love the game.”