The swishing of skates cutting into fresh ice, the clatter of sticks connecting and loads of laughter were the sounds of some good ol’ hockey games going on at the 10th annual P.E.I. Pond Hockey Championship.
Hosted by the West Point Fire Department, this two-day event on Feb. 7-8 this year was a pond hockey lover’s dream with 52 teams playing 101 games in a 24-hour period.
“On Friday night under the lights, for the last round we played 10 rinks all at once. So there were 20 teams on all at the same time. It was just a massive ball,” said fire chief Harvey Stewart.
For two days in the dead of winter, the population in this small Prince County community takes a sharp spike as pond hockey participants and viewers pour into the region for this historic sport.
The fire crew, which at present consists of 18 members, brought it up a decade ago as a way to raise funds for firefighting equipment for the station.
“The whole group came up with the idea: ‘Let’s have a pond hockey tournament just for a few laughs’ and it turned into this,” said Stewart, as he took a break from his volunteer refereeing detail.
This ever-expanding event started out at the West Point Harbour, but the tidal nature of the Northumberland Strait wasn’t conducive to super ice surfaces so they switched things up.
The present site is in a large excavation pit behind Stewart Enterprises Ltd. in West Point where work started earlier this year to form the solid smooth ice surface for a series of 12 pond hockey regulation size rinks, as many as 10 of which were in hockey action at one time during the tournament.
“West Point is a very small community. Everyone starts getting excited about a month beforehand. Everyone is down checking the pond, is the ice going to be good,” said volunteer firefighter Brandon Ellis.
There was also a rink built specially for the children who wanted to strut their skating skills while the adults played the day away. An event tent, purchased by the fire department, provided a heated shelter, a skate changing area and canteen service.
There were also two pubs and an adult dance held for pond hockey participants.
Mid-morning on Saturday, the rinks were rocking with on-ice action as the championships played themselves out.
“Standing in the cold playing hockey, drinking cold beer; it’s East coast lifestyle,” laughed Ellis as he came in out of the cold into the warmth of command central, which was a trailer on loan from JVI.
Inside, game announcer Stewart MacDonald of West Point kept a close eye on the time and the game schedule, which operated like a finely turned machine.
“Over the last (number of) years doing it this way, we’d have 101 games to put through in two days and we’d only be off (schedule) a minute or two by the end of it,” said this longtime firefighter with the West Point Fire Department.
Joey Dumville of O’Leary, who is a longtime fan of this ongoing pond hockey game, was back again for another round of outdoor fun.
“We play against everybody. There are different levels, and it depends on how your record goes, (which) means if you win some games you play against teams that are winning . . . . Everybody starts off the same but eventually you get paired up against your skill level. There are three different championships: an “A”, “B” and “C” division,” he said.
“It’s a good way to start the day,” said Morgan Smallwood, who was sporting a Toronto Maple Leafs jerseylike his Nova Scotia pal, Nathan MacLean.
“We’re hoping they’ll be here for the draft,” joked this big-time hockey fan, who has been a follower of this annual pond hockey tourney since its inception a decade ago.
“It’s a good day. It’s a fun thing and it supports the fire department.”
This tournament runs pretty much as a no-overhead fundraiser, Ellis said.
“Almost everything that you see here has been donated to us, right from the lights, the pucks, the toques and all the trophies and things . . . And one of the biggest things is the fries. All the potatoes have been donated and they’re all cut up here. We get to claim that it’s P.E.I.’s best fries. These are better than (regular) rink fries, when you look around (you can see) this is ‘the rink!’” he added with a laugh.
Chief Stewart said tournament participation has increased from around 30 teams the first year to more than 50 this year. It also now draws pond hockey enthusiasts from all over the Island, as well as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
“Everything goes towards equipment, every bit of it. On the right side (of our new) tanker truck there is a picture of pond hockey with Peter Puck — that’s our mascot — (with the words) ‘Proudly bought by hockey,’” he added.
“Every year it’s always the same. I think everybody enjoys it more just as a bunch of fun. And then in the evening everybody sits around and has a great bunch of laughs. The social part of it is unbelievable. That’s the best part of it all.”
Never Saids are P.E.I. Pond Hockey champs
WEST POINT — Team Never Saids, consisting of Lukas Dyment, Jordan Lewis, Fidan Feta and Justin Ramsay, prevailed over the Connor Sweet team in the “A” Division final to win the 10th annual P.E.I. Pond Hockey Championship last Saturday in West Point.
The tournament, hosted by the West Point Volunteer Fire Department as a fundraiser for the department, started under the lights Friday night and finished under the lights around 8 p.m. Saturday with the “A”, “B” and “C” Division finals.
The Darryl Donahue team won out over the Bradley Arsenault team in the “B” final. Arsenault picked up the Dustin Clements Memorial Trophy as the pond hockey player best conveying compassion and dedication for the game. It was Donahue who won the memorial award last year.
The Michael Adams team prevailed over the Timmy Rayner team in the “C” final. The most sportsmanlike team award went to Tyne Valley’s Rock the Boat, Jeff Noye, Jonathan Smith, Todd MacDougall and Adam MacLellan.