By Meghan Marx
It's January in the Twin Cities -- and for the past seven years -- that means it is time for the country's largest outdoor pond hockey event, the 2012 U.S. Pond Hockey Championships. Every year hockey lovers will put on their skates and take to the ice to play hockey "the way nature intended."
Why Pond Hockey?
Seven years ago Fred Haberman had a vision. He wanted to do something about the lack of Pond Hockey Tournaments in the United States. After some digging, planning, and organizing, it didn't take much for Fred to convince players to come from near and far to take part in his dream -– a tournament for players who loved the sport in its most basic form.
"Pond hockey is my religion," said Fred. "There's nothing better than being a kid again, skating with wild abandon, free from the pressures that dog hockey players and parents these days. But the ultimate rush is playing with others who love the game."
Last year over 30,000 spectators came to watch hockey played au natural. The crisp winter sky above and fast ice below, the smell of ice and sounds of skate blades gliding and sticks cracking…all the makings of magical weekend on the ice - full of camaraderie and competition. Registration takes place in the fall so if you're contemplating getting in the game -- head down to the championship this year to see what it's all about.
For three days, kids of all ages can come together to play on the fresh ice. Player check-in is the evening of January 19th for all groups including six different divisions for all skill levels:
Open Division is for men and women 18 years and older. The competition is tough, having big dogs on some teams such as former NHL legends, Division 1 players, and high schools champions.
40+ Open Division is for men and women ages 40 and older.
50+ Open Division is for men and women taking part who are 50 and older. Teams are made up of six players with four being on the ice at any given time.
The Rink Rat Division is a recreational division for men and women 18 and older who love hockey but whose skill level isn't enough to take on the NHL players.
Women's Division is for those 18 and older for women only.
The Timberland Boot Hockey Division is more about merriment and the love of hockey – in your boots for a great cause. Competitions take place in the evenings.
There is also an open area for younger observers to go skate during the tournament.
So what is the crowning jewel? The champions do not win prizes, but winners will go down in history with their names etched onto the Golden Shovel -- a symbol of passion for the pure outdoor game of Pond Hockey. After all, a shovel is the only thing a player needs to turn a frozen pond into a place of play.
Head to the big tent for all sorts of food and beverage…did we mention it's a warming tent? Spectators can seek shelter and heat in this grand space while they fuel up on all the essentials: brats, burgers, pop, beer and more! Looking for someplace to sit down out of the cold? There are plenty of tasty local eateries within walking distance or just a short drive away to satisfy any pallet.
Where to Stay
The tournament's central location in Minnesota is great for those coming from far and wide. A short jaunt south provides a good selection of both hotels and shopping. Those flying to the games won't need to spend much time orientating, as the airport is right between the pond and hotels.
January 20-22, 2012
Registration fees vary by division
Meghan Marx was born and raised in the mid-west, where outdoor activity is her second nature. Meghan is a graphics artist, college professor and web designer, follow Meg at @designingmarx.
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