Polar Pond Hockey has become an institution in the six years since it started, and the group organizing it is keen to see it grow even bigger.
“We’re always trying to figure out ways to entice more out-of-town teams to come down,” said Mark Horton, the chair of the committee. “We’re proud of it and we want to see them come and see what we do here.”
This year’s event saw 34 teams compete for the title in open, ladies’ and oldtimers’ categories.
While reigning champs, Poutine Machine, took the top spot in the open category, the Moosehide Mamas from Fort Simpson – although a few players now live in Hay River – won for the women and the Super A Allstars took the oldtimers’ title.
“We have lots of teams from outside this year,” said Horton, despite the drop in total teams from more than 45 last year. “Yellowknife is a tough nut to crack, but hopefully the word will spread about how great it is and teams will start coming down.”
While the dozen or so rinks set up on the frozen river across from the Fisherman’s Wharf clearly indicate the predominance of the outdoor events, Horton said he and the committee are pleased with the social aspect of the weekend. The giant heated tent held hundreds of people on the night of March 7 for a party featuring two live bands and a lot of raucous fun.
“Friday night is a big part of it,” said Horton. “We do what we can to build on that and keep people coming back to have a good time. A lot of the games were done at 7 o’clock so people could get to the dance.”
Horton said it’s encouraging to see the same teams coming back year after year, including some from Alberta. But more than anything, he credits the volunteers who come back year after year to make the event possible.
“It’s always the same,” he said. “We have a lot of infrastructure to deal with here and the volunteers work so hard, it’s just amazing. Everyone has their roles. The military couldn’t put together a command centre as fast as we can put this thing up.”
No doubt a good time by all was had at the party, but for most, the real fun happens on the ice.
“It’s just great fun,” said Jessica Gilbert. “You get the chance to play outside and just have a great time with friends.”
She said that while some teams are clearly there to be competitive, others are out to spend some time together and have fun.
In the three years she has been playing in the tournament she said she has seen all kinds of different levels of skill and always has a great time.
Gilbert said she was pleased the weekend wasn’t too cold, either, with the dates for the tournament having to be moved up to accommodate the Arctic Winter Games this year.
“When it’s -30 C out, there isn’t much fun in that,” she said. “But no matter what, this tournament is always a great time.”