New England Pond Hockey Classic – New Venue, Same Dates

This year more than most, my Google Alerts are coming in handy. I have a couple dozen set up at the moment, all trained on phrases like “pond hockey tournament”, “pond hockey classic”, and the like. Without fail, each morning I wake up and survey the damage. Event X has been postponed. Event Y has been cancelled. Every morning is another inbox funeral.

One noticeable omission from the bad news folder has been the New England Pond Hockey Classic. Typically held on Meredith Bay in New Hampshire, it seemed that the NEPHC was destined for problems with only a couple inches of ice as of last week. But organizer Scott Crowder and his team is ice experts were not content to let this spring-like winter ruin their event. After meeting with town officials last week, Crowder’s crew settled on a smaller lake about a quarter mile from the original location. Much in the same way a cup of water freezes solid before a swimming pool would, the smaller Lake Waukewan had 10-12″ of ice, so the gang got to work clearing the rinks. The aerial shot was taken just yesterday by Bill Hemmel of Lakes Region Aerial Photo, and shows the original location at top left along with the 18 rinks cleared for play.

With the change in location comes a few changes for those of us familiar with the Meredith Bay location of years past. The primary challenge with Waukewan is that there is NO on-site parking. All participants, spectators, and volunteers will need to take a shuttle from one of three locations in Meredith: Hart’s Turkey Farm on Route 3, the Chase House Inn (which doubles as PHC Headquarters and the site of player check-in), and Prescott Park, which is 1/4 mile north of the Lago intersection. Shuttles will run on a continuous loop, and should be at each location every 15-20 minutes. Players should plan ahead and aim to be at Waukewan an hour before their scheduled game.

In addition to the parking challenges, Lake Waukewan is also the source of Meredith’s drinking water. As such, several groups will be on site to ensure that pond hockey participants abide by the many state and federal regulations in play with a body of water like this. Namely, there can be no fires, no vehicles, and no trash left on the ice. In addition, everyone on site will need to use the portable restrooms, and refrain from relieving themselves on the lake. Most of this is common sense, but it is the type of situation where the actions of one can affect many. Where Meredith has been a gracious host of this event for each of its three years, this is the pond hockey community’s opportunity to return the favor. Simply following these rules will do just that.

Aside from the location change for the games, most of the rest of the weekend is on schedule. Tournament weekend will kick off at 7pm on Thursday night with the Bauer Experience Skills Competition outside the Common Man Lago (near the old rink site). Bring your stick and skates and try your luck at the hardest shot, accuracy, and obstacle course, or leave your gear at home and try the Bauer products they’ll have on hand.

Friday morning kicks off the games on Waukewan. Electronic waivers must be completed by Tuesday, January 31st, and team schedules can be found here. After a Friday of hockey on the pond, NEPHC’s charity partner Restore Hockey will host a party at the Winnipesaukee Ballroom in Church Landing at Mill Falls. The party starts at 7:30, with free Labatts until 8:30 (or they run out). There’ll be food by the Common Man, raffle and silent auction items to benefit Restore, photo ops with the Stanley Cup, and a screening of National Geographic’s web series ‘Beyond the Puck’. Admission is a $10 donation to Restore, and each participant will get a Restore Hockey Lace Bracelet.

Saturday and Sunday will feature more pond hockey action at Waukewan, with all of the division finals taking place on Sunday. Assuming all goes as planned, everyone should be able to drag their tired legs home in plenty of time to settle in for the Super Bowl.

Considering the weather for most of this “winter”, it’s not surprising to see so many events postponed or cancelled due to thin or poor quality ice. But the NEPHC is not just another event. In this area, it’s THE event.

And we’ll see you there.

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