MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The U.S. Pond Hockey Championship was nearly cancelled last year. Unseasonably mild weather created thin, weak ice.
The ice on Lake Nokomis was only 6 inches thick this time last January.
This year, organizers are breathing a sigh of relief thanks to colder temperatures this winter. The recent mild spell is actually helping construction of the ice rinks, which began Wednesday.
“Another crew will come behind, put strings up and then paint the lines, and then we start building,” said Nick Monson, operations director.
Construction for the 2013 U.S. Pond Hockey Championship has begun on Lake Nokomis. Crews were out today assembling a massive warming house and 26 ice rinks. So far eight rinks are tournament-ready.
Each rink takes take about an hour to set up, the process itself about a week and a half. All of the rinks are set to be built by Friday.
“We start from drawing each individual rink out with spray paint and then we do all the assembly and then all the maintaining of each ice rink itself,” Monson said.
And Mother Nature is as integral to the process as each construction team member. This week’s mild streak, instead of causing delay, is actually lending aide.
“The moral is a lot better when the weather is sunny and nice as it is,” Monson said. “Where as when it starts getting in the negatives everybody slows down and nobody wants to be out in the middle of the lake working.”
With the rise in the mercury comes not only lifted spirits, but improved ice conditions, as well.
“That warmer weather actually will flood the rink, ya know, it will melt the top layer off, and make it a nice smooth surface for us but once the warm weather changes over to cold, it’s suppose to be a deep freeze next week, and that will really help us out,” he said.
Until that deep freeze comes, the sun and winter warmth are providing a welcome work environment.
“It’s a perfect day to be setting up for pond hockey. There’s already people out here skating, too. People are getting amped about it,” said Kyle Rush, a construction worker.
The eighth annual Pond Hockey Championship will begin next Friday, Jan. 18.
The lake’s current ice depth is a solid 13 inches, plenty safe for the hundreds of players that will compete for the ‘Golden Shovel.’