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

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Organizers of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships may announce some big changes next week to the popular outdoor event.

The ice is far from ready on Lake Nokomis with less than a month until the outdoor tournament. The warm December weather has kept the Minneapolis lake from freezing over.

"It's kind of nice to be able to get outside more and not be frozen," runner Andy Thompson said.

Some Minnesotans only see the upside of an unseasonably-warm December.

"It's perfect for running," runner Rick Carlson said. "No snow at all."

Jim Dahline, the marketing director of the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, is not pleased with the warmth.

"I'm not a fan of El Niño," Dahline said. "When there's things outside of your control … it's obviously frustrating. I wish I knew how to make ice."

On Jan. 14, 225 teams will take the ice on Lake Nokomis. The lake is barely frozen over right now. At the shoreline, it is only an inch thick.

The ice would ideally be at least 10-inches thick to support more than a thousand players, spectators and heavy equipment.

The long-range forecast makes that unlikely so far.

"We want to do everything we can to not cancel it," Dahline said.

Organizers are already considering contingency plans, like changing the date. But delaying the tournament would be an inconvenience for those needing to rearrange travel. Athletes are coming in from 40 states.

Another solution would be to change the location. Organizers need 25 rinks to host the event, and there are limited options.

"The weather is not that much different in Minnesota really anywhere," Dahline said.

Organizers are also looking at the possibility of playing on 6 to 8 inches of ice instead of the typical 10 to 14 inches.

That option would ultimately come at a cost to some of the tournament atmosphere.

"That means we're not going to be able to have spectators out on the ice. We're not going to be able to have our ice resurfacers, Zambonis on the rink," Dahline said.

The decision is expected to be made next week, and the hope now is that there will be a late assist from Mother Nature.

"Fingers are absolutely crossed," Dahline said.

He says there is no chance that the tournament would move indoors.

The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships take place Jan. 14 to Jan. 17. The tournament has never been cancelled in its 11-year history.


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