U.S. Pond Hockey Championships Crowns 2020 Champs


The 15th annual U.S. Pond Hockey Championships took place on Lake Nokomis this weekend. Come winter, this popular summertime lake freezes over giving way to this large scale tournament with 28 rinks and thousands of players. Teams across 8 divisions fought through blood, sweat and tears to hoist the golden shovel, each in their respected division. Pond hockey harkens back to youthful and simpler times where skates, sticks, a puck and a small wooden box for a goal all setup on the neighborhood pond. Sure, some conveniences of the modern game are available such as the occasional resurfacing and ice cleaning of a Zamboni. However, the rink cleaning duty by and large befalls upon the players. Before each game the players grab shovels and clear the shaved ice from the surface. Often times the ice is still slow and choppy causing the puck to bounce or skaters to take a tumble. The fluffy mounds of shaved ice that gets built up along the sides cushion the puck against the boards creating a few dead spots. All part of playing the game along side mother nature just as so many of these players did growing up in the frozen north.

Another luxury of the modern age is the custom made jerseys that each team had. Clever designs and pun laden monikers were prevalent across many teams. A number of them sported sponsors and subtle nuances that were perfect for various attention to details. A few that stood out were the Big Lebowski themed jerseys of the Van Buren Men, and the Dekes of Hazzard. Getting a look at all these carefully curated hockey sweaters was a highlight of the weekend made even better by the spectators donning them as well.

Sleds were a suitable tool used to transport both children and hockey gear. Numerous dogs were on hand to partake in the fun as well, often times needing to be pulled back from making leaps towards a sliding puck across the makeshift rinks. With so many people gathered on the frozen lake, the walkways were a bit slow at times. That is unless you happened to have some skates on, those folks just hopped over the boards and took the speedy route across the rinks that weren’t playing host to a game. 

Once opening games were played, the brackets could be filled out accordingly and the stage was set for Championship Sunday. The rinks full of players grew smaller as the crowds around each rink grew larger. The often encouraged suggestion not to observe the game from behind the goal eventually became the only option for some to get a good view. That view came at a price as deflected pucks and errant shots flung through the air, up and over the short boards smacking members of the growing crowd. Fans gasped on a few occasions as the action on the ice became fiercer and the shots taken were hit with greater velocity leading to some close calls of puck and spectator encounters.

Each bracket had teams getting knocked out one by one as the quest for the trophies ensued. The conclusion of this year’s action was an exciting one as the final game to be played was between Hendy Homes Tail Gators and RJ Ryan Construction. It was an intense display between the two in a fast moving game. Things got chippy here and there between the two as players took some bumps that sent them over the boards and into the crowd. Just a lone goal was the only difference between the final two as Hendy Homes Tail Gators took the top spot. Battle wounds were on display in the victorious team photo. Missing teeth from days before and a wound to the head that had blood streaming down another player’s face. It was a great wrap up to this long standing tournament that pays homage to the winter life of the North and it’s hockey culture.

The seven champions of 2020:
40+ Open:  Tradition Mortgage
40+ Rat:  Van Buren Men
Cedar:  Canadian Tuxedos
Open:  Hendy Homes Tail Gators
Rink Rat:  Below Average
Sled:  Rochester Mustangs Gold
Women’s:  Consistently Cuatro