MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Thousands of hockey players from across the country and world are in Minneapolis for the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships.

The popular event was canceled last year because of the pandemic, but is in full swing once again at Lake Nokomis.

READ MORE: State Patrol Investigating Serious Injury Crash On Highway 610 In Brooklyn Park

“We’ve had years when it’s been even colder and we’ve had years when it’s been really warm,” said U.S. Pond Hockey Championship Commissioner Jim Dahline.

Organizers said the recent bitter blast made conditions perfect for the battle for the Golden Shovel.

“It’s cold! But it’s amazing!” said New York Hockey Player Chris Swanson.

It was Swanson’s first time visiting Minnesota and playing hockey on a pond.

READ MORE: Next Weather Alert: Severe Thunderstorm Warning Issued In Freeborn County

“It kind of felt like going back in time for me. It’s just a natural experience. It was great, being outside with friends, playing, it was perfect,” Swanson said.

Duluth native Derek Behning has played in the tournament for 7 years. He now lives in Atlanta but said it’s a reunion he looks forward to every year.

“It’s a good time. We play hard. We get to go to a couple local restaurants and tomorrow we are going to the Gopher game so everyone loves it and we’ve talked about going to other tournaments but we keep coming back to Minnesota,” said Behning.

In its 17th year, the two weekend tournament brings thousands of hockey players from across the country and beyond to the state of hockey.

“After a year break, a recharge and rethinking, we are excited to have 25 rinks, nearly 300 teams down here on the rinks on Lake Nokomis the next ten days,” said U.S. Pond Hockey Championship Commissioner Jim Dahline.

MORE NEWS: COVID In Minnesota: MDH Reports 2,131 Cases, 9 Deaths

The event is free for spectators. Organizers recommend they come prepared with extra layers to stay warm.

Kirsten Mitchell