Sunday, January 22, 2012

The 2012 U. S. Pond Hockey Championships

Today is the third and final day of the 2012 U. S. Pond Hockey Championships held on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

2012 US Pond Hockey logo, 2012 US Pond Hockey logo

The U. S. Pond Hockey Championships began six years ago with a tournament on Lake Calhoun. The romantic nature of the back to basics tournament clearly struck a chord and gathered all kinds of the right attention, such as a write up in none other than Sports Illustrated.

The next season the tournament relocated across town to it's new home at Lake Nokomis where it has remained ever since.

Friday began with 160 Open Division teams divided into 28 groups of five teams each hitting the ice at 8:30 AM for the first of two days of pool play spread out over 25 rinks on the frozen lake, which lasted until 4:30 PM. Games continued in pool play Saturday, again from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM. At the conclusion of Saturday's schedule, the 28 group winners with the best record from the four games against the other teams in their group, plus four additional wild card teams, were seeded into a 32 team bracket of single elimination games to be played on Sunday.

USPHC aerial shot, USPHC aerial shot
An aerial view of the tournament on Lake Nokomis

Last year the temperature was in the single digits with windchills of -10º, making for near ideal playing conditions but a bit brisk for the spectators. Today will easily be the warmest of the three days, with the forecast calling for temperatures starting at 15º in the morning with highs expected to reach 38º and winds light at 10 mph with a 30% chance of snow. By the time of the championship game in the Open Division it should be the warmest it's been all weekend, so bundle up, bring some handwarmers and buy some hot chocolate in the warming house and come on out and experience the fun for yourself in what should be ideal viewing conditions.

Play begins today at 8:30 with the Round of 32. The winners of those first 16 games advance to the next round just two hours later at 11:30 AM. The eight surviving teams meet in the quarterfinals at 1:30 in the afternoon. The next round of semifinal games comes up fast, just an hour later at 2:30. The two survivors will square off for the championship trophy, The Golden Shovel, another short hour later for their fifth game of the day in the space of just seven hours!

With that many teams involved, there are always some great names chosen, with some of our favorites this year being:
  • Blame Canada
  • Do it for Dunlop
  • Frozen Pond Scum
  • Great White Buffalo
  • Healthy Scratch
  • Here for Beer
  • Money Shot
  • No Stars
  • Pinching D
  • Power Play: Unit 3
  • Puck in a Box
  • Puck-U
  • Pulled Hammies
  • Screaming Dolphins
  • Shut Your 5 Hole
  • Smell the Glove
  • The Mild
  • The Super Best Friends
  • The Swelling
  • Toothless Wonders
  • Twine Ticklers
  • Zuba Nation
Bonus points for those of you who got all the pop culture references contained above!

Other than the Open Division, other groups with championships on the line today are the 40 and over, 50 and over, Women's and Rink Rat divisions, as well as the Timberland Boot Hockey competition. If you want to be inspired to keep in shape as you grow older, don't miss the finals in the 50+ division!

The first championship of the day will be settled at 11:30 AM for the 50+ group, followed by the Boot Hockey final at 12:30, the 40+ final at 1:30 and the Rink Rat and Women's finals coming at 2:30 with the Open Division championship game for the Golden Shovel closing out the competition at 3:30.

On Friday and Saturday, your intrepid reporter trekked out onto the frozen lake with camera in hand to document some of the noteworthy jerseys which caught our eye. While some teams can barely round up six matching jerseys, others with an eye for a good looking sweater and either a sense of history or sense of fun, can produce some good looking sweaters, some of which we have gathered here for you today.

Blazin Bandits, Blazin Bandits
The Blazing Bandits from Chicago sporting Blackhawks throwback barberpoles

St Louis Dodes, St Louis Dodes
The St. Louis Dodes with a very professional looking effort, had very sharp red and black jerseys with a penguin crest

The Great White Buffalo
The Great White Buffalo with not only plaid jackets, but matching pants as well

Silver Bullets, Silver Bullets
The sponsored Silver Bullets all wore #78 in honor of the first year of production for Coors Light

Maxwell's Demons, Maxwell's Demons
The sharp dressed men of Maxwell's Demons

Mammoth Lakers, Mammoth Lakers
The Mammoth Lakers out of California, combining the Los Angeles Kings vintage jerseys with the name of the former Minneapolis basketball club relaxing with the brew that motivates many of the teams - beer!

Branding Interactive, Branding Interactive
Branding Interactive had New York Rangers white jerseys complete with drop shadowed numbers as their inspiration

Pylons, Pylons
The Pylons wore road construction vests with numbers on the back
and one with a captain's C on the front

Flatlanders, Flatlanders
From Wichita, Kansas, the Flatlanders had Homer Simpson as Chief Black Hawk for what they said was their alternate jerseys

Quinn the pit bull, Quinn the pit bull
Even Quinn the Pit Bull got into the spirit of the event, sporting a (signed!) Minnesota Wild jersey

If you are coming out to take photos, be aware that cold weather is horrible for batteries and we recommend bringing plenty of spares kept close to your body to keep them warm!

Here is a look at last year's U. S. Pond Hockey Championships, held annually on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.

To get an understanding of the romance of pond hockey, we present the full length documentary film Pond Hockey, filmed on location at the first U. S. Pond Hockey Championships in 2006, which features interviews with many former NHLer's, including none other than Wayne Gretzky.

To purchase your copy of Pond Hockey, please visit

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