By Reg Chapman, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — While some Minnesotans cringe at the news of cold weather on the way, one group is actually quite happy about it.

On Monday, organizers of the sixth annual U.S. Pond Hockey Tournament have been prepping Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis all day long. On the lake, there are 25 new hockey rinks and a huge warming tent.

“Set up is almost complete. We got all the rinks up here, tent is just about done and temperature, weather has been just perfect, to be honest with you,” said tournament co-commissioner Justin Kaufenberg.

Crews started their set up early and workers say they are glad they did most of the work will be done before the temperature starts to fall.

“It’s pretty tough to cancel a game due to cold given the option we would rather have it colder than warmer,” said Kaufenberg.

It’s been said that outdoor hockey separates the real players from people pretending to be hockey players. The true test on the ice is when the temperature drops way below zero.

“This is how hockey started, on lakes and the ponds,” said hockey player Jason Malaria.

Kaufenberg says this championship has never been canceled because of cold temperatures. In 2008, the average wind chill during the tournament was -17 degrees. Kaufenberg says playing in the cold is a way of life for most hockey players.

“It becomes a little bit of a badge of honor. You’re kind of in the fraternity if you played at minus something in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships,” he said.

It’s not the cold, but the warm weather that can ruin a good outdoor pond hockey tournament.

“The worst one was last year where it was just too warm. There was rain and high temperatures and Sunday was just too wet to play the games and had to be canceled,” Kaufenberg said.

This year, everyone is prepared for another deep freeze, and more than 20,000 spectators and 2,000 hockey players will turn this lake into a hockey lover’s delight.

Players from 33 different states, the UK and Canada should show up, come freezing temperatures or not.


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