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Second Pond Hockey Tournament a success

The winners of the second annual New England Pond Hockey Classis gather for a photo. Erin Plummer. (click for larger version)
February 09, 2011
MEREDITH — Neither snow nor sleet nor rain could keep hockey players and enthusiasts off the ice during the second annual New England Pond Hockey Classic, a weekend of fun and nostalgia for many.

This year's tournament doubled in size from its debut last year with around 160 teams taking part from 77 last year. The ice by the Inn at Bay Point was lined with 14 rinks for games starting on Friday up through the playoffs on Sunday.

The tournament was the brainchild of former UMass Amherst hockey player Scott Crowder, a Nashua native who summers on Bear Island. After last year's wildly successful tournament, the number of teams and rinks doubled and the game meant a weekend of festivities for players and locals coming out on the ice.

The Greater Meredith Program held its first chili cook-off during the tournament and helicopter rides were offered among other activities. The tournament's scheduling a week before the Greater Rotary Fishing Derby also brought many spectators from bobhouses set up in the vicinity.

Teams and players came from across the region and the country for a weekend of games and camaraderie.

The team members of Peddler's Daughter from Nashua have been playing hockey together for around 10 years since their days at Bishop Guertin High School. Most of them still live in the Nashua area, save for teammate Seth Beam. Beam currently lives in Kansas and serves in the Army, but flew out to New Hampshire to play with his old friends.

"Without a doubt the coolest event I've ever been to and I would not miss it ever again," Beam said.

Teammate Bob Langlais said the team played last year, but lost the first round of the playoffs.

This was the first year for the Stride from the Boston area. The five-member team made it to the finals on Sunday but lost.

"We played much better than we ever expected," said team member Brian Murphy.

Murphy said most members of the team grew up together in Melrose, Mass., and playing in the tournament was a "good chance to see everybody."

"It just made you think about when you used to play growing up," Murphy said. "It was a great time the last three days, not just on the ice but off the ice."

A winter storm on Saturday created difficult conditions on the ice. Heavy snow fell Saturday afternoon. Players still went full force in their games through the snow with halftimes dedicated to moving snow off the rinks.

Despite the weather, Crowder said on Saturday that the games had been going smoothly with participants giving high marks to the event. In addition to the nearly 1,000 players, Crowder estimated around 2,500 spectators to the games.

Saturday's weather turned from snow to ice and freezing rain. Sunny skies and warmer temperatures prevailed on Sunday, but combined with the existing conditions to make for slushy ice.

Crowder said on Sunday he was out helping to clean off the rink with the grounds crew from Mill Falls helping out.

Players did say the ice posed a challenge, but they worked through it.

"The ice was very soft," said Stephanie Wood from The Hot Dogs. "Both teams, we were like little kids trying to skate again."

"The ice isn't perfect," Crowder said, but despite that, "we handled it, the event got better. It was the best worst-case scenario with the weather last night

On Sunday afternoon, former Boston Bruins players, including Crowder's father Bruce Crowder, gathered on the rink in team uniform that afternoon to play in the Bruins Alumni Game. After the game, players stayed around for photos and autographs with fans.

Bobby Carpenter played with Bruce Crowder in the 90s and joined his former teammates at the game.

"This is awesome, it's just great to be able to see all these people here," Carpenter said. "I just think it's great for the people that know hockey and understand it the way we grew up"

The playoffs started at 2 p.m. on Sunday with the winners of the Lake WinnipeHockey Cup, a wooden replica of the Stanley Cup, presented at 2:45 p.m.

The Lakes Region-based team The Locals took the win for the Just for Fun Under 35 division after last year's narrow loss.

"I think it was a great turnout," said teammate Jeff Houghton.

"We put a lot of hard work in it," said team member Andrew Neforas. "I think Scott did a great job, very well organized."

The Hot Dogs from the Boston area were the first ever winners of the new Women's Division in their first year at the tournament.

"We play together year round, we're teammates for the year," said team member Stephanie Wood. "It's just a good time really, it's not too far away. It gets you back to the hockey you grew up playing."

Wood also said the tournament was a good means of escape for a weekend.

"Definitely to be the first ever Women's division champion, good feeling," Wood said.

The Rhode Island Rangers won in the Over 40 division. The members of the team have been playing together since they were small children in Mites. This was their first year in the tournament; they were on the waiting list this year but were put on the roster two weeks before the tournament.

All the members of the team are from Seakonk, Mass., with teammate Tom Fecteau owning a house in Laconia.

"We figured we could compete, it's just a matter of getting used to playing a different kind of game," Fecteau said.

The slushy rink did provide some challenges, but they worked through it for the win.

"It's a lot of work that Scott does," said teammate Mike Mulvey.

The team wants to return to the tournament next year.

"We actually have another group of guys who want to come too," Mulvey said.

The Ice Holes won in the Open Division, The Frozen Hacks won in the 30+ division, Nagog Construction won the 50+ division, and Hiblits won in the 35+ division.

Crowder said he was overall pleased with how this year's tournament went, also praising the volunteers and the crew.

"We can see this thing grow from what it was last year to what it was this year," Crowder said. "Everyone's saying 'Can I sign up for next year?'"

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