/U.S. pond hockey: more than just outdoor fun

U.S. pond hockey: more than just outdoor fun

Young hockey players in North America dream of chasing a Silver Cup. It’s a journey of strength, determination, and car trips three counties over at 6 am to play on the ice. There are some players out there who are not into all the glitz and glam of the hockey arena, however. The light and sounds, the smell of hot dogs, the booming goal horn. Some players don’t want to chase a Silver Cup when you can have some gold.


In 2005, Fred Haberman, had a vision. The National Hockey League is the premier league, and Haberman wanted to cut out a slice of hockey history by reaching a market the NHL couldn’t reach. Why not take hockey’s roots and bring them back to glory? So, Haberman took his vision and his love of the game of hockey to Lake Calhoun in Minnesota. He saw hockey the way the hockey gods dreamt it to be seen: outside, on a frozen pond, in the cold of the Minnesota wilderness. Looking over the frozen tundra, he envisioned the lake full of freshly cleared rinks, with teams and spectators alike cheering and encouraging their favorite players. He saw that you didn’t need those tiny arena seats, or the giant screen showing adds for the local paint business. He wanted people to witness hockey in its purest form. He was going to bring pond hockey to all those who wanted to witness its brilliance.

After giving many blessings to the forces that be in hockey demi-verse, Haberman was given a gift from the gods. On January 20th, 2006, the rinks had been cleared and the first puck had been dropped, igniting the flames of what would be known as the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships. Contestants from all across the land rode in to do battle on 25 rinks. 116 teams of pond hockey players entered the tournament, but only three came out on top. In the Open Division, the Almost 40 AKA Wright Homes defeated the Federal League All Stars 10-7. MN Flyshooter’s 2 shut out the Fighting Weasel’s in the Women’s Division. Even the elders of the hockey community participated with the Minnesota Loons besting the Sunday Slackers 7-4. These three teams were the first of a long line of pond hockey players to turn down a Silver Cup for something with infinitely more prestige and glamour (okay, maybe not to all). The Golden Shovel.


The stuff of legends…

The U.S Pond Hockey’s history involving the emergence of the Golden Shovel is quite clear. Dr. Frank BIfflehoffer, an archaeologist from the University of Minnesota, made a discovery the changed the course of hockey and history as we know it. The Golden Shovel was once a prized talisman and utility of a game played by Vikings. Upon unearthing an ancient Viking camp, Dr. Bifflehoffer found, amongst the ruins of other hockey items, the Golden Shovel. With it, he discovered a book with ancient marks telling the tale of the Golden Shovel and how it became a beacon of hope and sport in the hockey world.


While these details are debated amongst hockey purists, I for one believe that it would be pretty difficult to make up such a fascinating, detail-oriented story from scratch. Do I believe all the details to be 100 percent true? Well, maybe not; I believe that some details are lost in translation. However, I believe that the main ideas are factual.

While researching these facts, there are also tales of the legends of Pond Hockey on the U.S. Pond Hockey website. The stories are amazing and filled with wonders.


Back to reality…

The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships were a success. The tournament expanded to well over 200 teams and, to make room for all the extra games, they moved to Lake Nokomis. Over 900 games were played over the three-day event. The Golden Shovel was given to three more teams and a smaller, less-gold trophy was awarded to the winners of the Rink Rats (21 and under) tournament. This trophy became known as the Silver Scoop. Knowing that a child would not be able to wield the immense power of the Golden Shovel – but also wanting to avoid imbalance in the eyes of the hockey gods – the young winners were given the Silver Scoop.  T first Silver Scoop winners were the Perfect 10, who defeated the Wildmen. Finally, one more award would be handed out at the sequel tournament. The Bill Wood sweater, named for a pond hockey legend who died after the first tournament, is awarded to the player who shows the most effort, teamwork, and sportsmanship during the tournament. The first ever “Woody” recipient was Tim Olsen.

The league continued to get hot while the temperatures fell. The average temperature for the 3rd tournament was a balmy, -17.5F. That didn’t stop the 253 teams from battling to have their names etched onto the Golden Shovel. The 2009 tournment saw more of the same frigid temperatures. Yet, once again, the combatants got off the warmth of their couches, put on their skates, and continued the now-growing tradition of hoisting the snow of the ice with the Golden Shovel.


Years to come…

The tournament continues on, with the 2018 tournament being held on January 25th to the 28th. At the time of the writing of this article, registration is still open. You can head on over to http://www.uspondhockey.com to register your team. Not sure you are ready to compete? The tournament is looking for volunteers to help with set-up, score keeping and, once the Golden Shovel has chosen it’s new victors, cleaning up after all the festivities. Want to help the hockey gods rule over the participants? No problem, just sign up to be take on one of the toughest jobs in all of sports: refereeing. Without these guardians of the rule books, chaos would overtake the tournament, and possibly the world.  You can check out some of their videos by clicking here.

Hockey as a heritage is part of the United States and Canada. From the top of Canada to the tip of Florida, hockey continues to grow and thrive. The NHL has also (finally) decided to take the game outside with their Winter Classic. The games have been a huge success and have brought many new eyes to the sport. The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships has become an annual event for people to travel from all across the land to meet on a lake in Minnesota and celebrate the joys of hockey. Players, along with their friends and families, continue to write a tradition that is a symbol and passion of millions of people.



Hey weirdos, this is my final article for gnghockey.com. I have enjoyed my time with this site; it has been an amazing ride. I am eternally thankful for everyone involved with the site. This site evolved from a weird idea between friends, to covering the sport that I have loved since I could remember from the press box. Most of all, I want to thank all of you, who read my goofy articles about my strange obsession with hockey. I always enjoyed the weird and the strange. As a kid, I wanted to know what it would be like to be a sports mascot, or how they make the ice so fast, as well as covering facts that seemed to have fallen out of the rule book and, of course, an obsession with the greatest trophy in all of sports: the Stanley Cup. So, for now, I am hanging up my skates with GNGHockey. But, like the old cliché goes, never say never. If there is a subject that tickles that writing nerve the right way, I might come back for an Alumni article.

For the listeners of the Off the Dashers podcast, as you may already know, that will continue. You can follow the podcast on twitter @offthedashers – any news and announcements will be happening there. Thank you all so much for reading and listening over this last year. For now, I am retiring from GNGHockey and I wish everyone continued success and achievement. I hope one day to see gnghockey.com grow even further beyond what I could have ever imagined.

Thanks for all the great times,

Jim McBride

Jim McBride is a Contributing Writer for Good Night Good Hockey. He also loves dogs. Note: He is not this dog. The primary way of contacting Jim is at this email: jmcbride@gnghockey.com.