I woke up excited this past Saturday, as I was about to make a pilgrimage to something that a hockey fan growing up in the lower mainland of B.C. can only dream of: a hockey tournament played on natural ice, right out in the open air.
Looking outside my front window just ratcheted up the excitement even more as I saw that Kamloops was covered with in another dump of snow overnight that didn’t look like it was going to let up any time soon.
After a mandatory Timmies stop and a 45-minute drive from Kamloops to the small community of Logan Lake, what I found out there on the frozen pond exceeded my already sky-high expectations. Seven different 135-by-65-foot patches of cleared ice sparkled without a single rut on them: the most perfect skating surface I had ever seen.
Snow mounded up all around the cleared off “rinks” and after every game the teams grabbed shovels and got to work clearing any snow that had fallen during their game so that each game began with that same perfect sheet of ice.
The teams themselves also lived up to what I expected from teams in a pond hockey tournament. The names of seven of the 22 teams included a reference to how inebriated they were. In terms of dress, two different teams opted to dawn jean jackets and denim in favour of traditional jerseys. It was an interesting lineup, to say the least.
The hockey itself was clearly secondary for most of the teams, although there were some moments when the four-on-four contests opened up, with both teams skating hard end-to-end. These moments were often punctuated on either side by lots of yelling about how six players on a team was far too few.
There was an “A” division and a “B” division, with some teams clearly caring more about the score than others, but for the most part all of the teams seemed to remember that they were out there for fun, a rarity in my experience with adult recreational sports.
With scores reaching the high thirties in some games, certain teams (that will remain nameless) employed the interesting tactic of lying down and completely blocking the eight-inch-tall by six-foot-wide pond hockey nets.
The only accurate way to describe the action on the ice is “youthful.” You could see the transformation happen in front of your eyes as every player out there was transported back to the long days spent playing the unorganized shinny hockey of their childhoods. With no coaches yelling and no pressure to succeed, it was truly hockey being played in its purest form.
Standing on the middle of a frozen lake, surrounded on all sides by snow, trees and hockey, I didn’t think that moment could ever possibly get more stereotypically Canadian. And then I saw the beer garden.