Sign In | Create an Account | Welcome, . My Account | Logout | Subscribe | Submit News | News | Local News | Contact Us | Home RSS

ON THE SCENE: Making the best of winter with pond hockey

February 1, 2019
By NAJ WIKOFF , Lake Placid News

Ninety-six teams came to Lake Placid to play pond hockey as part of the Can/AM hockey tournament held from Thursday, Jan. 24 to Sunday, Jan. 27.

There were open men's, women's and coed teams broken into five age groups by decade starting with those in their 20s up to 60s plus. Each team is made up of six players, and there is no designated goalie.

Nearly two dozen pond hockey rinks were set up on Mirror Lake just off the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort beach. This year, as a result of the heavy rains on Thursday, rinks were initially opened Friday on the Olympic Speedskating Oval while Can/Am crews cleared as much slush and water off the lake rinks as they could. All hoped the ice would harden up on Friday night, which it did.

Article Photos

Hockey players compete in the annual Can/Am Pond Hockey Tournament last week on Mirror Lake in the village of Lake Placid.
(Provided photo — Naj Wikoff)

"We lost a few rinks, but for the most part they had enough rinks out there so their teams could play," said Butch Martin, manager of the North Elba Park District. "Thank goodness for the Oval so they could fit in some games there on Friday and give everybody a complete schedule."

"We are dealing with typical Adirondack weather," said Eric Chapman, director of the Can/Am Pond Hockey Tournament. "We had anything from 15 below when it was too cold to come out here and work, and machines wouldn't start to then almost 50 degrees and rain for a full day. It's been a challenge. But with the help of ORDA, we were able to use the Oval a little bit on Friday. That allowed us to get out on the lake and get it ready so we can have a full day on Saturday."

Pond hockey is an informal game played outside on natural ice in a rink anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of the size of a regulation hockey rink. As the edges of the rink are made from piled-up snow - no hockey boards to reflect a puck back into a rink - the top of the goal tends to be low to discourage high shots. Often, it's not much higher than the width of a puck. Body checking is often forbidden as the players are not wearing protective equipment. As a consequence, the game encourages puck handling and skating.

Pond hockey, known as "shinny" in Canada, has two possible roots: Scotland and the indigenous peoples of Canada and the U.S. The name shinny comes from the Scottish word Shinty, their descriptor of a pick-up game that is traced back to pre-historic Scotland. Then the hockey sticks were made out of tree branches and pucks from frozen "road apples" - horse manure. While I have not been able to find documented citations, another often described root is a variation on lacrosse that Micmac and other Indians are said to have played on iced-over ponds in Canada and the northern U.S. In this case, the puck was a small leather ball.

Whatever the actual history, all pond hockey participants agree that the game is a lot of fun, and participants can have a variety of skill levels and equally enjoy the game. What is also true, discouraging as the rain was for the many who came for the tournament, once on the ice the fears and frustration vanished.

"For these guys who come out here and play, participating in pond hockey has the nostalgia factor," said Chapman. "It takes them back to when they played as kids outdoors in the front yard or on a lake or pond behind their house. There is a real joyful element to this. For some of these guys, they play just once a year, and this is the event they play. It's hockey, but it has a very different feel for them."

One of the challenges for the skaters is adjusting their expectations for the quality of the ice. Many players are used to playing on Zamboni-smoothed ice in arenas. Natural ice found on lakes and ponds can have bumps, ridges and cracks. The weather produces its own variables. It can be sunny or overcast, balmy or freezing cold. The winds can be gusty or still, and the light is continually changing. Plus, the family and fans are outside dealing with the weather as well.

"It's part of the game," said Matt Kuzniar, a Can/Am pond hockey program director. "It's part of what pond hockey is all about. It's back to your roots, playing on a pond, having fun and dealing with nature. Some of these teams have been coming for 14 years. They see each other once a year. And days like this give them more stories to share next year."

"Can/Am pond hockey is a weekend out with the boys having fun, making some new friends, and meeting people," said Carl Robertson, of Kingston, Ontario. "It's fun, and today looks a lot better than yesterday. "Yesterday sucked, but today looks good. We've got three games today, so we'll be tired by the end of the day."

Increasingly, more women and coed teams are participating, some who have played hockey since high school and others newer to the game.

"This is my first-time playing pond hockey," said Lisa Gee, of Those Other Guys. "I'm here with my fiance. I didn't play hockey growing up, or in college. I started when I was 42. Now I play and ref. I like the camaraderie, exercise and meeting cool people and doing fun things. It would be horrible if it were still raining, but that was yesterday. Today turned out awesome. I definitely want to come back and play again next year."

Ben Israeli, who originally hails from Los Angeles and now lives in New York City, participated in his first Can/Am tournament in Placid took a similar sanguine approach.

"The ice wasn't the best yesterday, but today the ice is great," said Israeli. "We don't have any holes to worry about. It's nice and smooth, has a good base, and there is a good rhythm to the games. It's the way hockey should be. Pond hockey is hockey in its rawest, purest form. It's more about strategy than skill. You can't really dangle out there. It's a little harder to skate, so you've got to move the puck, and it's nice to be outside."

"I used to coach some of the guys from Five Hole team from Oswego," said Dave Lloyd, watching a game with his wife, Michelle. "Pond hockey is the roots. It's what I grew up doing. It's fun watching the games and being up here. We come up every year. The community is quiet and relaxed."

"Our son is doing good," said Michelle. "He scored a couple of goals this morning. We love the camaraderie and being out in the cold and not in a warm rink. Lake Placid is a perfect place for pond hockey."



I am looking for:
News, Blogs & Events Web