The pond behind the Elk Ridge Lodge, just outside the gates of the Prince Albert National Park, was turned into a pond of dreams for Hockey Day in Saskatchewan on Jan. 21.
Six U11 teams — two from Saskatoon, the Renegade Rattlers and Flyer Phantoms — as well as the Regina Monarchs, the Prince Albert Bulldogs, the Humboldt Broncos and the Battlefords Barons made up the tournament that was dubbed, ‘The Battle on the Pond’.
“It started with our team manager Christina and our head coach Darrin sitting down for our first meeting together, and what we wanted to do this year for tournaments,” said Saskatoon Renegades Rattlers team treasurer, Paula Weiss.
“Outdoor had come up, and I said, ‘Why don’t we do Elk Ridge? Give it a whirl,’ and she was on the phone the next day to the SMHA to make sure that we could do it and it was sanctioned. Then she was on the phone with Elk Ridge and they jumped right on board.”
This pond hockey tournament was the first of its kind — the first to be sanctioned by the Saskatchewan Minor Hockey Association. In the end, organizers wanted an event like this to be one that the kids would look back on fondly.
“Your blades don’t get all snowy, which is a little different, so you don’t throw snow at each other in the dressing room,” said Ben Slugotski of the Saskatoon Flyers.
Tayla Olson of the Humboldt Broncos added, “I think we have a chance at winning it and yeah I think we will remember it when we are older.”
“It’s cold outside and the ice is a bit bumpy,” stated Kaelan Deranger from the Prince Albert squad.
The parents and coaches felt this tournament will be one the kids will always remember.
“A once-in-a-lifetime experience and they were lucky enough to get in and they will be happy about this for the rest of their lives,” said Aaron Friedman of the Battleford Barons.
“We were just praying that we got in, and once we heard our kids were just ecstatic,” added Chad Knaus, coach of the Humboldt Broncos U11 team for the tournament.
Elk Ridge is a perfect example of one of Saskatchewan’s many winter wonderlands, and adding an official pond tournament to become an annual event for Saskatchewan Minor Hockey Week, seemed like a perfect fit.
“People probably think this is a great idea to explore. And to be able to kind of set the tone, or set the bar is great. It’s a great place to do it. There is endless opportunity for not just hockey but to have a real special weekend away from the city.”
With the success of this pond hockey tournament, Saskatchewan can expect more to be popping up at other winter destinations across the province of Saskatchewan in the future.