Rain in mid-January. I've never seen it once on the Canadian prairies, and it certainly is something that we don't even consider in the Great White North during the winter. Minneapolis, though, gets rain in January on the rarest of occasions, and this weekend was one of those occasions.
Saturday was an extremely wet and slushy day at Lake Nokomis for the US Pond Hockey Championships. Honestly, the games resembled boot hockey more than pond hockey, and several of the rinks on Lake Nokomis had gone away from a puck in favour of a plastic ball. Huge difference in the way the game is played when considering what a ball does, but you could have mistaken pond hockey for ice golf today.
Every time a puck was shot or flipped down the ice, the ball or puck would simply hit-and-stick. Players were soaked from head to toe, splashing was more common than skating, and there were all sorts of efforts to keep equipment dry.
Needless to say, it was not a pretty day.
However, I need to make something extremely clear. The people of Minnesota and all the participants at the US Pond Hockey Championship never once let the inclement weather slow them down. If you want to talk about heart and "passion for the game", everyone at the USPHC displayed an amazing amount of both of those traits, and everyone had a smile on their faces regardless of the wet and poor conditions.
I can't even being to tell you how wet some players looked, but I did get out and get some shots of teams who had impressive jerseys. Some of these are simply good looks while others have a bit of a story behind them.
- Team NYPD - these are the same guys that Paul Lukas of Uni Watch Blog met on the airplane down to Minneapolis. They were amazingly generous with their time, and they seemed to be having a great time on the ice. Even when Officer Nelson, the man in the picture, stated that he couldn't believe that he paid to play in that much water. As Paul wrote on Friday,
My flight out to Minnesota was pretty lively, because I was surrounded by guys who’ll be playing in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships (including a team comprised of New York City cops). They told some good stories about last year’s tourney, when the temperature was 20 below, but mostly they talked about (1) playing “for the love of the game,” with absolute sincerity, and (2) drinking beer (and they were pretty damn sincere about that, too). A swell group of guys, and I look forward to watching them play on Lake Nokomis later today.Pretty cool, eh? Continuing...
- Foote Lake - these guys had the awesome Ottawa 67s alternate jersey, and I can't begin to tell you how good they looked on the ice. They informed me that they are one of the original teams from the first USPHC in 2005, and also passed on some info about their ages. If age is a measurement of their overall youth, however, these guys will always be young at heart. They hail from Williamsburg, Minneapolis, Lakeville, and Orono. I do know that these gentlemen won their game that they were preparing for, and it appeared they were headed for Sunday's championship day.
- Marines - this is actualy a team of marines stationed in Minneapolis. I'm not sure what rank Mr. Swisher held, but he was also amazingly generous in speaking with me. He and his teammates are all marines, and they thought the USPHC would be a great weekend activity. I have to say that they looked great on the ice (despite my lens being covered in rain).
- YMBO - these gentlemen were dressed in the 1932 Team USA jerseys. I'll admit that my photo is completely blurry, but these are the jerseys they were wearing. They were definitely one of the best-dressed teams at the event, and they get full marks for style. Four of the team members were from Minneapolis, and one made the trek in from Colorado. A gorgeous jersey choice, and one that this Canadian can fully endorse.
- Cold'n Oldies - what made these guys unique was the Chinese imagery and lettering on their jerseys. I'm not big on black jerseys as you are probably aware, but these just had enough going on that the black was tolerable, and your eyes were drawn to all the symbols and lettering on their jerseys. This is an excellent black uniform. These guys hail from Minneapolis, and had one of the better team names at the event.
- Pond Scum II - these guys didn't have overly impressive jerseys, but their numbering on the back was entirely unique. Full marks for the creativity and originality. This is exactly what pond hockey jerseys are about: a little do-it-yourself ingenuity and the ability to make it happen.
- Lumberjacks - who says hockey jerseys need to be actual jerseys? There were a few teams who fashioned their looks out of household items. The Lumberjacks were one such team. This is a great idea, and their uniforms actually serve to provide warmth as well. This is another team that has been around since they started the tournament, and they look great on the ice.
I'm off to the Minnesota Wild-Columbus Blue Jackets game tonight, so I'll grab some pictures there as well. Hockey Day in Minnesota has been a blast thus far despite it being wet, but the sloppy, slushy conditions haven't killed anyone's enthusiasm. Just don't wade too far out onto the lake! Championship Sunday will see the Golden Shovel awarded, and the Stanley Cup will unfortunately go back to the NHL.
Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!