Polar Pond Hockey becomes only tournament of the year

NNSL file photo Freddie Walls, left, and Finno Celestin battle for the puck in early March of last year during the annual Polar Pond Hockey tournament on the Hay River.

NNSL file photo
Freddie Walls, left, and Finno Celestin battle for the puck in early March of last year during the annual Polar Pond Hockey tournament on the Hay River.

Polar Pond Hockey will be returning to the Hay River from March 10 to 12 for the eighth time.

“We’re hoping for it to be bigger with there being no rink,” said Ryan Rowe, chair of the event, referring to the ongoing rebuild of the Don Stewart Recreation Centre and the switch to outdoor rinks. “Everybody that’s playing hockey this year they’re all going outside to 553 or different locations.”

The lack of an indoor arena this year has probably created a bit more interest in Polar Pond Hockey, he said. “People do want to play hockey. I know it’s been difficult. People are travelling on the weekends and things like that. I know even some people that have left town so that their kids could play hockey for the winter.”

The unusual situation means that Polar Pond Hockey will be the biggest hockey tournament in Hay River this winter.

“It’s probably the only one,” said Rowe.

Organizers have also lowered the ages accepted for the event from 18 years to 15 years because of the lack of an arena this year.

“So that will give some of the younger guys an opportunity to get on some teams and to play also because they’re the same as everybody else,” said Rowe. “They’re struggling to find ice times and to find times to get out there and play.”

Overall, early registration of teams is positive for the event this year.

“We have more teams signed up now than we usually do,” Rowe said late last week, noting there were about 14 teams already registered.

Of those 14 teams, seven are women’s teams and six are from out of town.

“We always get teams from Smith and Simpson,” Rowe noted. “The South Slave seems to really enjoy the event. It’s nice to see people come from out of town.”

In the past, other teams have come from Yellowknife and High Level, Alta.

Organizers aim for about 40 teams, and there have usually been about 35 teams in recent years.

Last year, there were 29 teams

The highest number of teams ever for the event was 48.

Each year, eight rinks are created on the ice of the Hay River in front of Fisherman’s Wharf.

It’s a fun event, said Rowe. “I think everybody is out there to enjoy themselves,”

The chair of the event has no concerns that this winter’s erratic temperatures might affect Polar Pond Hockey, noting he’s played in the past in temperatures ranging from minus 30 to plus five.

–Paul Bickford