LAKE PLACID — Hundreds of hockey players will descend on this village for the 20th annual CAN/AM Pond Hockey Tournament this weekend, and despite rising temperatures, the Wisconsin-based organization says it has a backup plan if the ice on Mirror Lake isn’t sustainable.
CAN/AM Hockey Group Director Eric Chapman said the tournament, which is typically played on a portion of Mirror Lake behind the Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort, could be played on the James C. Sheffield Olympic Speed Skating Oval in Lake Placid.
“Unfortunately, the warm weather isn’t anything new,” he said. “We’re all right. We have the Oval as a backup, so if the lake gets unplayable, we will head over to the Oval for the weekend. In 20 years of doing this, we’ve seen all sorts of weather and all sorts of ice conditions, but we’ve been able to make it happen every year.”
The tournament is slated to kick off on Thursday and will continue until Sunday. If games are played on Mirror Lake, there will be more than 20 pond hockey playing surfaces.
If the tournament needs to be played on the Oval, the ice is refrigerated which will allow the event to hold up even if the temperature gets above freezing point. Chapman said CAN/AM Hockey will put eight rinks out on the oval if needed and the organization is monitoring the weather forecast.
“(We are taking) the approach of: ‘First, do no harm when it comes to the condition of the lake,’” he said. “Everything looks really positive and everything looks great. Warm weather is probably going to push us onto the oval to get the event completed.”
Chapman said his goal is to make sure that provide all of the players with a fun and unique experience, while also making sure everyone is safe by keeping the weather into consideration.
“It’s such a well-received thing, and we’ve had so many people come back year after year,” he said. “We just want to make sure that we can give those guys that opportunity to play outside and enjoy pond hockey and everything that comes along with that, like playing outside and providing that experience for the guys.”
Chapman said it’s exciting to see where the tournament is now from where it started.
“(Back) when we had three rinks in year one that we literally just shoveled by hand off the lake,” he said. “Now, it has become such a big popular event that we have had to just limit to 95 teams — that’s our max.”
The teams will travel from all four corners of the U.S., including teams from Washington State, California, Florida and Maine. Some teams will be from Canada as well.
The tournament will have distinct age divisions, which are 21-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and 60 and older. Each team will have six players with no goaltenders.
“You’re looking at like 600 people with the players and guests just with the pond hockey,” Chapman said.
All games will be played in a four-on-four format. There will be guaranteed round-robin games, starting Friday morning. Each team will have two games on Friday and Saturday. Medals round games will be played on Sunday morning. Each game will have 40 minutes of running time — with a five-minute break between two periods.