Skaters take the ice in frigid weather for North American Pond Hockey Championship

January 20, 2019 06:34 PM

Thousands of people took to the ice on Lake Minnetonka this weekend for the North American Pond Hockey Championship, braving arctic air and subzero temperatures.

Wind chills dipped to 15 degrees below zero during the championship round Sunday.

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"It's cold out here but man it's great," said participant Nathan Bergeland. "You warm up if you're skating hard. Our motto is 'score more goals' so we did." 

Minnesota Moment: Pond hockey comes to Lake Minnetonka

Coordinators say the blast of cold weather helped the ice conditions. The ice is about 21 inches thick on the lake right now and smoother than years past.

"We'd rather have this than last year," said participant Jake Jirik. "It was 35 degrees and mushy out here, so we'll take cold over warm any day."

Nearly 600 players from about 70 teams participated in the weekend tournament.

Hundreds of volunteers and fans also braved the conditions and coordinators set up a warming tent so people could take breaks from the cold.

"Yeah, it's a little cold but once you get moving you warm up pretty quick," said participant Bho Olson. "Just throw on some layers and figure it out."

RELATED: Fans, players celebrate US Pond Hockey Championships on Lake Nokomis

Overall, players say they're happy to be out there doing what they love.

"We're Minnesotans, and that's the number one reason why. We love the outdoors and, heck, this is a great way to spend it with your buddies, shoot a little puck and win some games," Bergeland said.

Proceeds from this year's event will go to the Hendrickson Foundation, a non-profit that works to grow the game of hockey in Minnesota by being inclusive to those with physical and mental disabilities. They expect to raise more than $100,000 this year.

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Alex Jokich

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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