All hands on ice

Organizers of the Polar Pond Hockey tournament are already gearing up to plan next year’s competition after a successful fourth edition of the event was held. 

The tournament has grown since in began, said organizer Curtis Rowe.

The first year featured 28 teams. This year, there were 41.

By comparison, the annual world pond hockey tournament hosts 120 teams in Plaster Rock, N.B.

“We’d like it to be as big as it possibly can be,” said Rowe of the Hay River event. “If we get to a point where we can host 120 teams, then that would be great. We’ll take our baby steps as we go.”

Teams and individual players came from many communities in the NWT, and some even travelled from Calgary and High Level to play in this year’s tournament.

“We decided this was something we could do and have been running with it since,” said Rowe. “We’re trying to get more teams and keep the event growing. A ton of local sponsors and volunteers drive this event. It’s kind of surprising how important each sponsor is, no matter how large or how small their role.”

Eight executive members and numerous volunteers work every year to make sure the event gets bigger and better.

For this year’s tournament, organizers and sponsors tried a few new things.  They bought an inflatable tent with money they had raised in previous years. Next year, they will have a floor installed to deal with some of the slipperiness that comes with melting ice.

“People don’t realize how involved it really is, and it turned into a big show, a big event,” said Rowe. “It’s not as simple as cleaning a spot on the ice and setting down your boots. We’re happy with all the positive feedback we’ve been getting and all the people that’s just showed up to help.”

This year’s winners qualify to attend the world pond hockey tournament next February in Plaster Rock.