Warm weather forces cancellation of US Pond Hockey Championships games this weekend
Thursday night on Lake Nokomis, the mood was resigned.
Instead of the hustle and bustle of preparing for the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships this weekend, crews were breaking down equipment and sloshing through several inches of water on the lake’s ice surface.
“Mother Nature was really good to us a couple of weeks ago, and now she bit back,” says Jesse Delorit, an events manager for Pond Hockey.
All that standing water was an ominous sign for the tournament, which draws thousands of players and spectators.
“It would make for a good slip and slide, but unfortunately, we didn’t pack for that,” declared Grayson Flaim, who traveled to Minnesota from Atlanta, Georgia. “Hockey gear is not going to do us much good.”
Organizers say the frigid temperatures earlier in January made for the best ice conditions on Nokomis in nearly a decade- just in time for the event’s first weekend.
A Facebook post made Thursday by organizers announced they had decided to cancel the games scheduled to take place Friday through Sunday.
“There was already water starting to show. Obviously, with all the weight out there, if there’s any cracks, the water starts coming up,” Delorit explains. “And basically, hockey players, when they stop, and they’re going to stop abruptly, there are going to be serious injuries.”
Aside from the 2020 pandemic shutdown, this is the first time Pond Hockey has been cancelled in its 19-year history, organizers say.
“Last weekend was good luck, this weekend is bad luck,” organizers wrote in a Facebook post, adding, “We were hoping that the temps would get at least a few degrees lower to freeze overnight. That doesn’t appear to be the case.”
For the roughly 1500 visiting players- and an expected 20,000 spectators, some of whom travelled long distances to be here- there is disappointment.
“Yeah, it’s crazy. I think when we left Atlanta it was maybe colder there than it is up here,” says Jordan Bayersdorfer, who had hoped to play. “As we were flying in over the lakes, we saw the water on the lakes, and we thought- this doesn’t look good.”
It’s not just lakes impacted by this January melt-down.
“This winter just isn’t working for us,” says John Elholm, Crystal’s Recreation Director.
At Valley Place Park, a trio of ice rinks are waterlogged.
City officials closed warming houses and say they won’t be maintaining the rinks.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Elholm notes. “It’s too warm and as you can see behind me, we have a lot of water.”
Some communities, like Minnetonka, opened their rinks less than a week ago.
Officials there and in New Hope say they’re considering whether to close their rinks.
From lakes to smaller venues, this weather whiplash is making for the shortest hockey season in memory.
“We’ve been here for like 13 years,” Bayersdorfer says. “Other than COVID, we’ve played on some slushy ice, we’ve played in some really cold conditions- but never thought this would happen.”