Monday, January 26, 2009

Pond's Good For Me

For the fourth straight year I had the good fortune, along with over a thousand other puckheads, to participate in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships, which for the third straight year was held on Lake Nokomis in South Minneapolis. Once again, the squad I played on wasn't in the hunt for the vaunted Golden Shovel. Our goals are limited to having fun and winning a game or two if the opportunities present themselves.

This year we went 2-2, which easily met our modest expectations considering our team was composed of three guys well north of thirty, a goalie skating out, and a couple of talented younger guys. And we had a great deal of fun, especially in our last game where we faced No Defense Outdoors, a team featuring former Gopher Matt Koalska and a couple of other guys who played for SCSU. In fact, I think everyone on the team played junior hockey for the Twin City Vulcans.

Since both teams knew we weren't going anywhere, we played a loose, enjoyable game. They probably could have run it up on us a bit more if they really wanted to, but we managed to hang in and put out a respectable effort losing 13-10. No shame there.

While the tourney is very well organized and run, there are a couple of areas for improvement. Both come via one of my teammates:

1. Instead of one tent where players change, visitors warm up, and both purchase food and drink, they should have one tent set aside for the players to gear up and down in and one for beer, food, and visitors. Perhaps a hallway of sorts could connect them. As it is now, the mixing of everything in one places leads to a lot of chaos and confusion. And it's really not an attractive atmosphere for non-players to hang in.

2. One of the biggest pains in playing is just getting out to the rink. After you lace 'em up in the tent, you ease you way down the stairs, hit a small area of ice where you can skate, and then struggle through a thin layer of packed snow to reach one of twenty-four rinks. Why not lay down an ice path that connects all the rinks and allows players to skate out to the rinks?

3. While I'm a huge fan of Summit Brewing and much enjoy the Summit Extra Pale Ale that is served at the tourney, it would be good to offer up a little more variety, especially some lighter beer fare. You don't have to pour Miller Lite, but at least have a couple of taps of Summit Pilsener.

And while Lake Nokomis has proven a workable location, it would be nice to host it on a lake with better parking and closer to critical amenities such as bars and restaurants.

Small gripes no doubt, but you need to consider them if you want to make a good and growing event truly great.

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