MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (WCCO) – A siren wails on a frozen Lake Nokomis, signaling the half-way point in a fast-paced game.
Blue skies and bright sun greet nearly 2,000 pond hockey faithful to the 9th annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championships. Over the next few days, they will play like they did as kids.
According to tournament’s co-commissioner Justin Kaufenberg, the competition is fast and, at times, furious on the lake’s 25 rinks.
“The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships is pond hockey the way nature intended,” Kaufenberg said.
Players from 45 states and Canada make up 250 teams. They’re playing on rinks shoveled on Lake Nokomis for the pond hockey equivalent of the Stanley Cup – the Golden Shovel.
“So far so good, you know. It’s sunny but cold out here, just the way we like it,” he said. “I’d say we can play in almost any weather if we have good ice.”
Good ice conditions are easily confirmed by the squeak of skates and the snap of pucks against plywood boards. These tend to be high-scoring games because players shoot the puck into a makeshift net without goalies.
Autumn Platz watched her husband’s team play Friday afternoon.
“They were getting beat pretty bad at the beginning, and then they started scoring, so I don’t know what the score is right now but it might be close,” Platz said.
Andy Archer of team “Grizzly Beers” – who have a great team logo as shown in the video above – says there’s nothing like hitting the rink with his teammates.
“Outside, fresh air, just a bunch of guys more casual than, you know, league hockey,” Archer said. “This is just a blast.”
Darrell Norling came to watch son Chad. He was shaded under an umbrella which served as his shield from a biting wind.
“Well, my wife would be here, as I was telling my friend, but she had a nail appointment, so there are priorities,” Norling said.
She still has a shot to see a game, so long as Chad’s team, the “Old Timers,” keep winning.