As if the sport of hockey wasn’t intense enough, bring it outdoors on a frozen pond in the middle of winter in Minnesota. That’s the setting for the annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championship, the nation’s largest outdoor pond hockey tournament.
If you’re a sports fanatic and you’ve never played pond hockey (or at least watched it), you should. ESPN.com listed the tournament as part of its “101 Things Sports Fans Must Experience Before They Die.”
ePromos’ Karl Gilbert, a Brand Consultant who’s also a lifelong hockey enthusiast, was on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis last month, participating in his first-ever Championship.
Read on for his account of the sport he’s loved since childhood and his experience at the 2014 U.S. Pond Hockey Championship.
How many years have you been playing pond hockey?
I have been playing hockey since I was five or six. Pond hockey is just something we play for fun. This was the first time I participated in this tournament, so we were rookies in some sense of the word, but we had a good team.
How did you prepare for the Championship?
A lot of us play in men’s leagues in our towns, which helps keep our game sharp.
What do you enjoy most about the sport?
Being outside and playing hockey outside is something I did all the time as a kid growing up. If it was winter, and if it was a weekend, then that’s where my buddies and I would be – playing hockey on the outdoor rink (ODR).
What’s most challenging about it?
Having to be defensive. It’s easy to get lazy/want to be offensive because it’s pond hockey, but the actual tie breaker for any ties in the tournament is goals against. We didn’t really agree with that rule, being as we were the team that scored the most goals in one game and the tournament in our division, but it is something we learned and can use to our advantage next year.
How did you feel right before the puck dropped?
I felt good. Was all bundled up and ready to go since it was a bit cold!
Were there any outrageous moments during the game?
We had some teams try to start some stuff, but our enforcer, Mitch Ryan, put a few guys over the boards to restore peace out there.
How far did you advance? What was the final outcome?
We did not make it to championship Sunday, despite winning three of four games. We lost our first game 8-6 after we were up 4-0. We did not have any subs (you play with four guys on the ice and are allowed two on the bench), so that definitely hurt us. We won our next three games very easily (15-5, 33-2, and 16-7 I believe).
What does it take to be successful in pond hockey?
Creativity. Your team needs it to win.
Anything else to say about your experience or the sport in general?
Look for the team “The Warroadians” on next year’s Golden Shovel (the trophy for the tournament). We plan on going back and taking home the gold.