Lake Nokomis. Eagle River. Meredith Bay. Manhattan?
Sure, why not?
Such was the mindset of Grant Hewit, tournament organizer for the first-ever Big Apple Pond Hockey Tournament, which concluded this past Saturday.
“It’s the first tournament of its kind to be brought to New York City, and presented a very unique opportunity for city dwelling rink rats,” said Hewit. And with over 8 million people living within city limits, needless to say there were plenty of them. “Team registration sold out shortly after it was open to the public, generating an extensive waitlist of teams.”
The players were comprised of amateurs from all over North America and included club players, former collegiate stars, and a team that represented the New York Police Department. One can only imagine that the sticks stayed down and in control for their tilts.
“It was truly a surreal environment for everyone involved, playing in the shadow of the New York Public Library and surrounded by massive skyscrapers on all sides,” recounted Hewit. “Some of the tourists…made it abundantly clear they had never seen anything like this before, and certainly didn’t expect it in Bryant Park.”
Nestled in the heart of Manhattan Island, Bryant Park is a 9 acre park that boasts the largest expanse of grass on the island south of Central Park. Bordered on one side by Fifth Avenue, the park serves as a lunchroom for many of midtown Manhattan’s working class during the spring, summer, and fall. But in the winter, the grass gives way to Citi Pond, a 100′ x 170′ free-admission skating rink built in 2005. An outdoor tournament on the Pond was only a matter of time.
“This is the kind of hockey we all grew up playing,” says Casey Lewis, a commercial real estate associate in the city and participant in the tournament. “Outdoors, short rinks — it’s the true spirit of the game, except we we’re doing it in Midtown Manhattan. It was special.”
Also special was the event’s inclusion of the Herb Brooks Foundation, a charity named after the legendary hockey coach. An active participant in the youth hockey space and a vocal advocate for the growth of the game, the Herb Brooks Foundation was started by his family to honor the coach of the 1980 Olympic gold medal team and help make the game more accessible for everyone, regardless of skill level or financial status. The Foundation served as the official charity of the tournament.
The one-day tournament ended with a hard-fought but cordial championship game, won by Team Sleeve-It. Then, in a tradition shared by country players and city rink rats alike, it was off to the local bars to ice wounds, mend pride, and recap the day’s events.
Hewit says it best: “All in all, a fantastic day for hockey in New York City.”
Interested in the 2012 Big Apple Pond Hockey Classic? The waitlist is already building. To add your team, visit www.bigapplepondhockey.com and click the “Player Info” option.