MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Though this winter has been filled with warnings to stay off the ice, organizers of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships say the ice is thick enough to play on.
Justin Kaufenberg, the co-commissioner of the tournament, has been monitoring ice thickness across Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis, where the tournament set to be played, drilling holes in various spots, especially interested in the thickness where hockey rinks are set up.
As of now, he says the ice is good.
“Very good,” he put it. “After the last couple weeks, this is good for my heart.”
Kaufenberg has drilled close to a 100 holes on the lake, checking the ice thickness for several weeks.
“Right now we’re at 12-plus inches already,” Kaufenberg said. “And with what the weather’s going to do over the next few days, we expect to be on to 16 inches by tournament time.”
Kaufenberg used an auger on Monday afternoon to measure the thickness on the north side of the lake. He used measuring tape to record the ice depth.
The measurements he’s taken at Lake Nokomis are different than other lakes around Minnesota. Just last weekend, two young men died when their snowmobile dropped into the water on a lake in Buffalo.
Other parts of that lake had ice more than a foot thick. It’s variation like that can lead to a lot of confusion
The ice on Lake Nokomis sets up well, because the water doesn’t move much. Other lakes in the city, like Lake Calhoun, have more variation in ice thickness because they have more moving water.
Hockey, a couple weeks ago, came with hesitation.
“When you have the 30s and watch it go up to 40, then 50, you can’t help but be a little bit nervous,” Kaufenberg said. “It was touch-and-go. You’re making a decision about a lot of peoples’ safety, and we really wanted to be careful there.”
He’s now breathing one big sigh of relief, and so are people playing on the ice before the tournament starts, including skaters Josh and Kate Etter.
“Just moved here from out East, so trying our hand at a Minnesota winter,” Josh Etter said . “Assuming we don’t fall through, we’re going to give it a go.”
Etter said that the winter’s mild weather makes him a little leery about being on the ice right now.
“I’ve never seen a winter this mild, so it just makes me wonder how the ice is going to hold up,” he said.
Tournament organizers say the cold snap should keep the tournamnet on schedule this weekend.