Playing 251 hours of continuous hockey is a challenge. When you add blowing snow and temperatures dipping below the -20 C mark, things get even tougher.
At Saiker’s Acres in Strathcona County, a group of 40 players is once again attempting to break the Guinness record for the World’s Longest Hockey Game.
“This record’s actually been broken 17 times,” Guinness senior records manager Michael Furnari said. “It’s a very popular record with us.
“The first time that it was broken it went on for 19 hours. Just to give you an idea of how much this record has grown, it currently sits at 250 hours.”
So, why does Guinness World Records include games that are played outside in the same category as indoor ones?
“We have determined that for this record, the criteria is really the time that’s played not where it’s taking place,” Furnari explained.
“Because the measurement is judged on the time with the record, we take both indoor and outdoor attempts and lump them into the same record, but I can say that playing outside in freezing weather is a very good story.”
While the Saiker’s Acres team has claimed or reclaimed the record five times so far, another crew in Buffalo has also set a record.
“Whether it’s played indoor or whether it’s played outdoor, you have different challenges each time,” Furnari said. “You have to find an indoor location that’s going to stay open for over a week straight. You deal with technical issues and things like that.”
The 11-Day Power Play was organized indoors at the Buffalo Sabres’ practice rink. In the early stages of the event, organizer Mike Lesakowski called Brent Saik — the organizer of the Strathcona County game — to ask for some tips.
“I said, ‘Hey, you don’t know me but I got your name from a friend who used to play for the Oilers and, to put it bluntly, I want to break your record.’ And the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘That’s awesome. How can I help?’
“A couple weeks later, we planned a call and he graciously gave me a bunch of time. We probably spent an hour on the phone talking about anything and everything about the logistics of it and players and fundraising.”
Both events raise money to fight cancer. The World’s Longest Hockey Game is a fundraiser for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. The 11-Day Power Play supports various support groups in Buffalo, including the Rosswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Centre.
Both of the organizers have a personal connection to the cause.
“My wife is a cancer survivor and a patient at Rosswell several years ago,” Lesakowski said. “Unfortunately, my mom was also a patient — who did not survive.
“One of the things that I got from Brent that was really important to us and it was spot on was to make sure that you pick somebody — a player, for instance — that is going to have a reason to do it other than: ‘I’m going to play in this cool hockey game.’
“He said the folks who have a passion for wanting to do this — because they had a loved one go through cancer or die from cancer or you’ve seen them go through cancer and survive — that knowledge and that passion will be what drives the players to continue when it would be easy to quit. And he couldn’t have been more right.”
Lesakowski hopes to see the friendly rivalry continue for years to come and wishes the Strathcona County team all the success in the world.
“Be safe and bring it home. Know that my players, myself and my wife and our group is pulling for them.
“I know it’s a long ways away and we’ve never met in person but I feel like I kind of know some of the guys because I know what they’re going through,” he said. “It’s quite a feat and just remember — they’re going to have to do it again,” he laughed.
The Lesakowskis plan to host another record-attempt game either in 2019 or 2020. And, for the record, they agree 100 per cent playing outdoors is harder.
“I can’t even imagine what they’re going through outside in this, what is it? -20 degree weather,” Mike’s wife, Amy, said. “The event in itself is very difficult and challenging, both emotionally and physically and then to be out in frigid temperatures? I give them credit.”
“It’s another level of respect I have for those guys,” Mike added. “It’s really unbelievable.
“I kind of use it as a rallying cry with some of my guys. It’s like, ‘These guys have done this thing five times outside in February in Edmonton, so quit whining about your nice clean locker room you’re sleeping in.’
“I think their record is pretty amazing,” he added. “Not to diminish ours, but you can make a compelling argument to have that a separate record.”
Indoor or outdoor, everyone agrees the feat is astounding.
“It’s incredible,” Furnai said. “To break any record — let alone an endurance record like this — you really have to be dedicated and you have to love what you’re doing.”
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