LAKE PLACID - Eric Chapman grew up working in the family business, the CAN/AM Hockey Group, founded by his parents, Bob and Ann Murch, who first brought the popular hockey tournaments to the Olympic village in 1980.
"In February, it will be 20 years for me," Chapman said on the Mirror Lake ice Friday, Jan. 24, surrounded by dozens of players at the 10th annual Adult Pond Hockey Tournament. "Primarily, we do a lot of the indoor events for youth here, the adult events and then the pond hockey."
Chapman is now the director for CAN/AM Hockey, based in Wisconsin, where he lives. The tournaments give a multi-million-dollar boost to Lake Placid's economy each year and fill a much-needed void in the business calendar during the slower tourism seasons of late fall and early spring. When he was old enough, Chapman began helping his parents with events.
CAN/AM Hockey Group Director Eric Chapman
(Photo — Andy Flynn)
"When I was a teenager working with my parents, I would lock and unlock locker rooms at tournaments," Chapman said. "I remember going to Quebec City as a kid unlocking locker rooms. That was an experience."
When Chapman finished college, he moved back to Wisconsin to work for CAN/AM Hockey. Now he has kids - ages 6, 8 and 10 years old - but they haven't been put to work in the family business.
"Not yet," Chapman said. "But I'm sure they'll start keeping clocks and unlocking locker rooms for us in a couple years. I'll bring them and put them to work."
And his wife doesn't work for CAN/AM Hockey.
"She just watches the kids," Chapman said. "She's in the most important business."
Chapman admits he's not a big-league hockey guy with all the right moves, just a hockey tournament director who puts on a helluva good show.
"I played hockey as a kid, but I don't profess to be a sort of professional," Chapman said. "The venue here, the town, the size of the town, the amenities, you can't beat it. Lake Placid allows us to run events at the absolute highest level."
CAN/AM Hockey operates tournaments from coast to coast, including Montreal, Toronto, Boston, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Anaheim and Las Vegas.
"We end up, come spring, traveling all over running those events," Chapman said.
CAN/AM Hockey is celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2014, 34 years in Lake Placid and 10 years hosting the pond hockey tournament on Mirror Lake.
"You play it shinny style, almost like pickup," Chapman said. "There aren't refs. We have guys keeping score, but with the teams out there, it's really a spirit-of-the-game type of thing."
The appeal for pond hockey among the adults is nostalgia. The tournament was a four-game round-robin event with teams broken down by age group: 21-29, 30-39, 40-49 and 50 and older, and a coed division.
"So we'll have a winner in each age group," Chapman said. "A lot of the teams will get eliminated, and they'll just keep playing out here on the rinks until it gets dark."
The tournament has grown over the past decade. Last year, there were 55 teams from the U.S. and Canada playing on 16 rinks behind the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort. This year, there were 77 teams on 23 rinks.
"Every year is a little bit different just because of the weather," Chapman said. "We started with just three rinks."
Some years the weather posed a challenge because there was not enough ice, so they had to play on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval. Other years they've had a lot of ice and no snow.
"This year, we've got a ton of ice, which is great, and conditions are probably the best they've been for us," Chapman said.
With CAN/AM Hockey entrenched in the culture and economy of Lake Placid, Chapman, his family and his staff have come to call Lake Placid a home away from home, promoting the Olympic village as a tourist destination and a place to play some great pickup-style hockey.
"We want to provide these guys with the best venue that we possibly can," Chapman said. "If I've got to pick up a shovel and clear a rink to make sure it's ready for the next game, we'll do that. ... But the goal for me is to create that situation where guys can just come and enjoy this event and Lake Placid as much as possible."
For more information, visit the CAN/AM Hockey Group online at www.canamhockey.com.