Saturday, February 16, 2008

Good Old Pond Hockey

BOULDER, Colorado -- Today's New York Times had a story by Charles McGrath about playing pond hockey while growing up in New Jersey. Where I grew up in Connecticut, playing hockey outdoors was one of the highlights of my childhood. Granted, some winters were better than others, but we could always get in at least a couple of days skating outdoors, either on Johnson's Pond in Hamden or Wright's Pond in Orange.

My senior year of high school was a particularly cold winter, and my friend Anthony and I managed to briefly play on our school's biology pond during a free period. It was only about 30 feet across, and after a couple of passes, a custodian came over to chase us off the pond. When we refused, telling him that the ice was several inches thick and perfectly safe, he enlisted the help of our headmaster, and we begrudgingly surrendered the pond. After being thrown off the only patch of ice at our school, we roamed the halls brandishing our hockey sticks shouting at anyone who would listen that the headmaster should learn a thing or two about winter weather or go back to Texas (we assumed that was where he was from, though I actually have no idea. Regardless, it was someplace where pond hockey is unknown.)

Left: Playing bandy at Irkutsk's Lokomotiv Stadium, Red Wings vs. White Power (yes, unfortunately the team calls themselves that
in English), February 2005.

Out here in Colorado, the nearby town of Nederland has constructed an outdoor rink, and I look forward to their Sunday morning shinny sessions every week. The corners are a little rough, especially if you're tracking down pucks behind your own net as a defenseman, but there's always at least one goalie, and the bracing wind and thin mountain air make for the best early morning exercise imaginable.

Of course, as bandy players and fans, hockey outdoors is simply a fact of life. We have various methods for dealing with the cold.

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