Organizers are working against nature to ready for the Canadian National Pond Hockey Championships, schedule to begin Friday, Jan. 24.
The event, returning for its sixth year in Haliburton at the Pinestone Resort and Conference Centre, promises two weekends filled with hockey on outdoor rinks. Approximately 120 teams are expected to attend from across Ontario, Quebec and the US.
But the weather has proven extra challenging this year according to event owner and resort general manager John Teljeur. Recent rain and a large snowfall Jan. 18 have required extra effort by staff.
“It’s a constant battle,” Teljeur said. “You try to put together 18 rinks on an ice surface that’s not really co-operative, with Mother Nature probably even less so.”
The future forecast is a concern too, with a warm spell expected for the first weekend, temperatures around -1 C. Organizers say anything above freezing could degrade the playing surface, which may lead to schedule compression.
Still, with crews working hard to prepare, Teljeur said he is confident things can go ahead, even if not all the rinks will be perfect.
“To have something like this, which is still one of the largest events of its kind anywhere in the world, in a small area like Haliburton, it’s a pretty big deal to pull that off,” he said.
New this year is a 40-foot igloo tent getting placed on the ice as a warming area, something Teljeur said participants have been asking for.
Also returning for the second straight year is the non-competitive “Pondimonium” divisions, for those seeking a more casual experience.
“Teams just wanted to come up and experience pond hockey without worrying about competing,” Teljeur said. “They just want to do three of four games and have a beverage and talk about old times.”
The event is also good for local businesses during a slow time of the year, Teljeur said.
“We’re bringing in over 1,000 people who are staying here two nights at a minimum. That will keep Pinestone and a few other places busy,” he said.
The games go Jan. 24-25, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, with live music in the evenings. More details can be found at canadapondhockey.ca.