Open water on Lake Nokomis with 16 days to US Pond Hockey Championships

Lake Nokomis 16 days away from U.S. Pond Hockey Championships

Lake Nokomis 16 days away from U.S. Pond Hockey Championships

With 16 days left until the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis, the lake looks more like a swimming pool than an ice rink.

The massive 11-day tournament is gearing up for its 19th annual event, bringing people from across the world into the Twin Cities to play hockey.

Cory Kutina — who said this will be his 14th year refereeing the tournament — took a break from his day on Tuesday to check out the ice conditions on the lake.

“It’s unbelievable how there’s no ice on the main part of the lake here,” he reacted, looking out over the body of moving water. “It’s getting to be that time we’re starting to get a little concerned about if it’s going to happen.”

Jim Dahline, the commissioner for U.S. Pond Hockey, said Mother Nature has dealt its fair share of hiccups over the years. They’ve encountered snow that took a week to clear out and temperatures that were too cold, he said. This year, fingers are crossed for a quick and lasting drop in temperatures.

“Yeah, I’m nervous. Of course you’re nervous,” he responded to questions about whether the championships will go on as scheduled. “You run an outside event, and you want to be doing other things like prepping and being down and taking pictures of the facility and doing that.”

Instead, he said U.S. Pond Hockey’s schedule is, at best, “compressed.”

It’s too soon to call it off or make adjustments, though, Dahline said, adding, “All that matters is what that ice looks like … the 11th or 12th of next week. That’s 10 days.”

Until then, it’s a waiting game as officials work on some backup plans. Dahline wouldn’t share what those plans are just yet, but he said they’ve turned to several over the years, such as altering the size and placement of the rinks and equipment when there’s less frozen surface area to work with and at last resort, pushing back the date.

“That happened like 10 years ago. That’s difficult because we have 50% of our players come from outside Minnesota,” he explained.

One thing they will not resort to, he said, would be moving the quintessential winter event indoors.

“But like I said, you know, next week is the most important week. And we’ll see what that looks like,” Dahline concluded.

For ice conditions to be right, several things need to line up in the forecast, according to Kenny Blumenfeld, a senior climatologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“To form better lake ice, we need temperatures in the teens [Fahrenheit] overnight, daytime temperature remaining below freezing, light winds, and no snow falling while the ice is forming,” he said in an email statement, adding, “but even those conditions would not guarantee safe lake ice for heavy recreational use in such a short amount of time.”

U.S. Pond Hockey expects to publicly announce any shifts in plans for the tournament on Jan. 14, Dahline said.