The pond hockey tournaments organized throughout North America are one of the coolest celebrations of the game that we, as hockey players have. Buffalo’s inclusion into this party is no different.
The only issue is that Mother Nature has chosen not to cooperate lately.
Buffalo’s inaugural tournament was dampened (no pun intended) by more water than quality ice on the Erie Basin Marina. The same issue followed suit in later years. In fact, the marina didn’t even freeze last year and the participants were relegated to playing street hockey.
However, the 2011 edition of the tournament almost made it through 100%. Sunny skies and warm temperatures caused some trouble late on Sunday of that year, but Friday and Saturday provided nothing short of tremendous ice and conditions for playing the game. In fact, a light snowfall made the event that much better.
This year didn’t exactly follow suit. Mild weather through much of December kept a solid base of ice from forming on Lake Erie and equally warm temperatures wiped out any ice that had formed in January. However, organizers were smart and quickly put together nine temporary rinks that would befit any backyard setup.
However, remnants from winter storm Nemo caused issues and many of the rinks were in rough shape for Saturday’s games. So many were compromised that morning games were pushed back and the entire schedule had to be altered.
Of course that didn’t keep hundreds of players and fans from descending on the area to play and watch hockey while enjoying a few hot dogs and, if age permitted, a few beers as well.
My team, like many scheduled for the morning sessions, managed to get one game in. Our rink was in decent shape, too. The only issue was a small hole that formed during play that began leaking unfrozen water onto the surface. Otherwise the ice was as pristine as you could hope for on a week-old backyard rink.
During gameplay you forgot about the sub-30 degree temps and the fact that the rink was in less than idea condition. I even tuned out the fact that I was anywhere but on a sheet of ice playing three-on-three hockey with some friends – the four-on-four rules were altered depending on the size and quality of certain rinks.
In our single game the Pond Hockey All Stars enjoyed a close victory over the very team we had defeated for a title in the 2011 tournament, Potters Field. Playing those familiar faces – although all faces in the Buffalo hockey community are familiar – made it a little better since both teams had battled below average ice two years prior as well. Defending our title was just a small bonus.
I give a lot of credit to all those involved in planning the event as they had to scramble for contingency plans when Mother Nature reared her fickle head once again. The 2013 tournament should be extremely exciting once the artificial canals at Canalside are constructed and can be kept refrigerated as the design specifies. That should ensure that this tournament has quality ice for years to come.