It’s 83 humid degrees today here in Southern New Hampshire, and once I put our two-year-old twins to bed tonight, I’m going to play pond hockey with my six-year-old.
In our living room.
And it’s all thanks to Iain Lang and his coworkers at Outset Media. That’s because they created a game called Pond Hockey-Opoly, an outdoor hockey-themed version of the famous Parker Brothers board game. The premise of the game is very similar to its legendary cousin, with two notable exceptions: instead of an iron or shoe, your pawn can be a tiny Stanley Cup or coach’s whistle, a skate or a hot chocolate mug. And instead of Park Place or Baltic Avenue, your pawn lands on bodies of frozen bliss like Lake Nokomis and White Park.
We recently chatted with Mr Lang to understand more about his company, how the game was developed, and how he came to choose the properties on both the elusive first edition and the latest second edition.
Backyard-Hockey.com: What is Outset Media?
Iain Lang: Outset Media was founded in 1996 by Dave Manga with one game only – The All Canadian Trivia Board Game. Head office is located in Victoria, BC – Canada with a central distribution facility in Brampton, Ontario. Outset Media is a manufacturer and distributor of over 2,800 games, puzzles and toys.
B-H.com: When did you begin working there?
IL: I grew up on Vancouver Island on Canada’s West Coast, but had been living in the Okanagan Valley in BC for about 24 years. I was anxious to move back to the ocean and Vancouver Island and jumped at the chance when a job opened up with this young growing company. When I started with Outset Media 10 years ago, we had 6 employees and approx 40 games. We now have 25 employees, 2,800 products and a 30,000 sq ft warehouse.
B-H.com: What is your hockey background?
IL: Growing up on Vancouver Island there was never really any outdoor ice and the nearest arena was 12 miles away so I was not introduced to hockey in my early years. I had moved up to the southern Okanagan Valley of British Columbia in my early 20’s, but again outdoor ice was a rarity. However, I got introduced to a mens rec league when I was about 23 years old. While I was an embarrassment to my team the first year, I was determined to improve and steadily became and ‘adequate’ player. However, during a particular cold winter, I got my first taste of pond hockey! Wow! I was smitten! To an ‘adequate’ player it brings out a whole new level of freedom and enjoyment. You feel that you can skate faster, turn sharper – and for the first time you feel like you even “look good” on the ice!. My hockey career only ever amounted to recreation and love of the game, but my young son soon got the bug (at age 3). I helped coach teams in his early years (as many fathers do in small towns), but soon backed off as his ability and skill level passed mine (at age 4). He continued through minor hockey and right through Junior Hockey. He continued playing in New Mexico, Australia, and now coaches and plays hockey in Taipei, Taiwan. He even played an outdoor tournament in Mongolia! The point here is that hockey exists in farther reaches than simply Canada and the US and is something that is with you for the rest of your life!
B-H.com: What prompted you to make a pond hockey-themed monopoly game?
IL: We were already distributing the “OPOLY” line of games (not to be confused with the “Monopoly” line). We were looking for a theme which would appeal more to a Canadian market. We originally would have focused on the NHL teams, but that necessitates a lot of legal licensing wrangling. So, we decided to get back to the roots of hockey. However, although we were initially targeting Canada, we quickly realized the appetite for pond hockey was just as crazy in the northern US states.
B-H.com: Are the rules the same as standard monopoly? If not, how are they different?
IL: Rules are the same.
B-H.com: Where did you get the information on the tournaments?
IL: The internet! For the original edition of the board game, I focused more on special or famous backyard rinks or ponds like Sutter’s Pond (Viking, AB) and Walter Gretzky’s Backyard Rink. I found a lot of good information in the late Jack Falla’s book “Home Ice”. In fact, I even included Jack’s backyard rink on the original board. (Editor’s note: if anyone can find me a copy of this original board, I’ll gladly trade one of my children. Backyard rink-opoly — it’s like it was created for me!)
B-H.com: How did you choose the tournaments that made the board?
IL: For the current board (Pond Hockey-opoly 2nd Edition), I focused more on the actual pond hockey tournaments across Canada and the US. I had to rely on the internet for a lot of this, but I wanted to make it interesting and find obscure locations if possible. I also wanted to recognize independent local organizations who were working very hard to raise money for charities or local causes. There were several large tournaments that I left off of the board because they were basically the marketing venture of a beer company or sports equipment provider. At the time of writing, I wanted to make the information as current as possible. Working against me at the time was a warm winter. As a result, many of the tournaments, even ones that had been held for years, were cancelled or moved due to lack of ice! So, we did not include those ones on the board.
B-H.com: Any plans to update the board in the future with new events (or editing the ones that have moved or been canceled – Frozen Faceoff no longer exists and Canadian National Pond Hockey Ch’ships has moved)?
IL: It will probably be a couple of more years before we update and re-print (if warranted). If the sales and enthusiasm is still there (and I can clear my schedule), then we will start the process again with updates and new locations. Until then, keep your head up and your stick down!
You heard it here folks…if you buy enough games and bug Iain at work, maybe they’ll release a third edition. For the most part, their games are sold at independent game retailers, so check out their retailer search form to find a store near you. You can also call them directly at 1-877-592-7374 x216 to find a retailer in your vicinity or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also ping them on their Facebook page, and as a last resort, they may also be able to ship one directly if you purchase over the phone with a credit card.
If you’ve played this game, or if you buy it after reading this story, comment below and let us know how it is! Because dropping some property at frozen Lake Fenton in the middle of January beats a crappy apartment on Marvin Gardens any day of the week.
And if our conversation with Iain didn’t give you enough info…check out the game’s promo video below.