MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships kicked off in Minneapolis Friday.

The event on Lake Nokomis was pushed back by two weeks this year because of unseasonably-warm weather. But now organizers say the ice is thick enough and ready for playing.

Related: Warm December Puts U.S. Pond Hockey Championships In Peril

“It’s incredible,” event co-founder Fred Haberman said. “The fact that people continue to come out here and play hockey the way nature intended is just awesome.”

Emrah Ozmen, who grew up in Turkey, is competing in his second pond hockey tournament this year.

“My friends see that ice outside, they would be very jealous,” Ozmen said.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

The three-day event on ice will feature 235 teams and 1,800 players from forty states.

Minneapolis resident Quinton Fulton said he has come almost every year since the championships started in 2006.

He brought his bundled-up 10-month-old daughter along this year.

“This is her first year to come and see it so she’s pretty excited I think,” Fulton said.

Organizers are expecting high turnout — around 15,000-20,000 people — due to the milder temperatures.

Admission is free. Click here for more details.

Kate Raddatz