Close your eyes and picture the scene. It’s a cold February Saturday. The cloudless blue sky and bright sun beam down onto a small lake, bespeckled by a half-dozen outdoor hockey rinks. On the rinks, red cheeks huff and frozen vapor puffs as skates and sticks combine to make hockey’s unmistakable percussion. Fans ring the rinks, cheering on goals and shouting encouragement. In the snowbanks, juice boxes await the postgame…
You read that right. For the players in this unique tournament, the postgame beer is still a decade or more away. The tournament in question is the first annual New England Youth Pond Hockey Jamboree, and it’s taking place February 21-22 at Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont (USA). Sound familiar? It should, as Lake Morey is the home of the Vermont Pond Hockey Championships. And the latter tournament played a big role in the Jamboree’s existence.
“Several of us coaches have been playing in the Vermont Pond Hockey Championship at Lake Morey Resort for the last four years,” Rich Wood told Backyard-Hockey.com. Wood, a professor at Springfield (MA) College by day, is one of nine volunteers from tournament beneficiary Wilbraham Twin Meadows Youth Hockey Association who is helping put on the event. “One of the nights up there we thought ‘we should do this for the kids, they would love it.'”
One unique aspect of the event is that there will be no winners or losers, with the focus of the tournament on the experience itself, and not necessarily the outcomes of the games. Wood and Co are calling it a jamboree, and it’s as much a celebration of the outdoor game as anything.
“Adult pond hockey tournaments are exploding in popularity all across North America, but there are very few options for kids to experience this great version of the game,” says Wood. “We wanted to give youth teams the opportunity to enjoy a weekend of pond hockey. This is an event about the joy of outdoor hockey, not about winning a trophy.”
To that end, the event will feature more than just on-ice fun for the players. The plan is to use Lake Morey Resort’s beautiful property to have sleigh rides, ice fishing, big screen movies, and more. Lake Morey Resort also maintains one of North America’s longest skating trails around the lake, which will be open for use during the tourney.
For its first year, the group is hosting Mite, Squirt, and Peewee age groups, with a plan to expand to Bantams in future years. Interested teams can visit the event site at http://www.youthpondhockey.wtmhockey.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The event is also seeking sponsors, with packages starting at $200 and exposure both on the event’s website and throughout the property at the event. Email the address above for more information.
So far the initial response has been great, and while youth pond hockey is still in its infancy, Wood is optimistic. “We are ecstatic about the response we have gotten to date, so we see a very bright future for this event. We also envision the “jamboree” aspect to grow considerably with more hockey nostalgia every consecutive year.”
So juice boxes in snowbanks? Hey, it might become the new postgame beverage of choice.