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Players hit the ice at pond hockey tournament in Chestermere

Click to play video: '61 teams hit the ice for huge pond hockey tournament in Chestermere'
61 teams hit the ice for huge pond hockey tournament in Chestermere
WATCH: Thousands of people are celebrating the holidays at a hockey tournament like never before in the Calgary area. As Gil Tucker shows us, teams from all over western Canada are hitting the outdoor ice in Chestermere for a huge pond hockey tournament this week – Dec 27, 2018

It’s a classic bit of Canadiana for the holiday season: an outdoor hockey tournament on a scale never seen before in the Calgary area.

Organizers of the Western Canada Pond Hockey Championships figured they might get 40 teams for the event, but they ended up being forced to cap it after 61 teams signed up. Players of all ages are battling it out on 12 rinks set up on Chestermere Lake.

“We’ve got teams from Montana,” said organizer Alex Halat. “We’ve got some from Edmonton and a few from Saskatchewan.”

Javen Lloyd’s team is competing in the Timbits age group.

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“We love it: playing outside in the winter, playing on the pond,” the five-year-old said.

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Watching the outdoor action brings some challenges for parents and other fans, bundled up against the chilly winter winds in parkas and blankets.

“Well, we’re Canadians, so it’s no big deal, right,” Jolene Sansome said. “We’re tough.”

The teams are also helping others during the event. Entry fees go to the Veteran’s Food Bank and charities that help kids going through tough times.

Elisha Jackson, with the Children’s Cottage, is grateful for that assistance.

“For a tournament of this scope, helping the Cottage is just such a cool thing for us,” she said.

The event wraps up Dec. 29, and organizers are already talking about expanding the tournament for the 2019 Christmas season.

“Unfortunately, we had to turn away a few teams from Manitoba,” Halat said. “We hit our ceiling for the number of teams we can handle, but I think next year we’re going to try to blow it up and accept as many as we possibly can.”

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