Major Hockey Event Coming to Rossland?

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
October 16th, 2008

If a group of enthusiastic locals get their way, Rossland could soon play host to hundreds of hockey players from across the western half of the country.

The event in question is the Western Regional Pond Hockey Championships which acts as a qualifying tournament for the Canadian National Pond Hockey Championship in Hunstville Ontario and could see over 300 players from across Western Canada make their way to Rossland to battle for Western Canadian supremacy and a berth in the national event.

Taking the game back to its roots as an outdoor game played on frozen ponds with minimal equipment outside of skates, a stick, and a puck, Neil Lumsden, the former general manager of the Hamilton Tigercats, created the event along with Drive Marketing in 2006. Requiring speed, agility, strength finesse and teamwork, the pond hockey format is more similar to a neighbourhood game of shinny than the NHL.

In pond hockey there are no face-off circles and few stoppages in play except when a goal is scored, the puck goes out of play or a player is called for an infraction. In all of these cases the puck is turned over to the opposing team. Pond hockey also plays with no blue lines, opening up the ice for dramatic rink-length passes. The biggest difference from the professional game, however, is that there are no goalies–leaving the job of protecting the 6’ by 10’ nets up to the defence. It all adds up to an exceptionally exciting brand of hockey that every recreational player and fan should experience.

Last February, John Reed of Redstone Resort approached Drive Marketing and pitched them on the idea of Rossland hosting the Western Regional Championship portion of the event. Upon getting a favourable response, a steering committee was formed consisting of John Reed, Mayor Gord Smith as well as Craig Adams and Ron Perepolkin of Community Futures.

After a number of meetings to build support with the key stakeholders in town, Drive Marketing came out to Rossland for a site visit and were impressed to the point of wanting to name Rossland the annual host city of the event. With much of the planning already underway, the group seems to be on the cusp of landing the major event.

If awarded, the Pond Hockey Championships would be a major addition to Rossland’s Winter Carnival, which would be able to boast a four day hockey event in its schedule from Jan 15th to 18th (the weekend before the carnival kicks off). This event would literally transform Rossland into a pond hockey paradise for the weekend with the creation of seven outdoor rinks around town. Centered around Second Avenue, the event plans call for four rinks to be constructed on the Emcon yard, two rinks in the Rossland arena parking lot, one rink on the seventeenth hole pond at Redstone Resort, and possibly an additional rink created at the base of Red mountain.

Darren Albo and John Reed presented their plans to council on Tuesday night and requested council support the event and fund the tournament up to $12,000. The city’s funding is needed for the construction of the rinks themselves, with an estimated $5,000 go towards equipment, $6,500 to labour and $500 to materials.

“Provided that the weather stays consistently cold during the ice building period in the last three weeks of December, these costs could come down a little bit. It’s hard to say exactly. These numbers are based on what it costs us to build the rink downtown.” explained Albo, Rossland’s Manager of Public Works.

With a total event budget of over $60,000 in cash and in kind services the event will make large use of volunteer hours and donations from sponsors to make a successful go of it. If awarded, the event brings an enormous potential to boost the city’s economy during a typically slow post Christmas tourism season.

There is also talk of Rossland becoming the annual host for the event. “Becoming the annual host community for the Western Regional Pond hockey Championships will have significant economic impacts on our community, including provincial and national media attention to the area and will assist in positioning Rossland as a premier winter and year round tourism destination.” explained Reed.

Council’s concern around the event involved potential disruption to the city during the rink building process, with up to six weeks of construction time to properly build the ice surfaces limiting spaces in the arena lot. Of particular concern will be access to parking during the event. Another hockey tournament is already taking place the same weekend inside the arena and the Emcon lots and arena parking lots will be out of commission as host sites for the rinks.

Councillor Spearn asked, “With up to a thousand people in town for the event where will everyone park?”

“We’ve talked about closing down Third Avenue during the event so that you’d actually have street parking along Third Avenue,” answered Albo, agreeing with other councillors that if Rossland gets the event the city will find a way to handle the accompanying issues.

Among other concerns are whether or not it will be cold enough to guarantee the outdoor ice surfaces in early January. Councillor Steve Knox said, “I’m curious. How successful we have been on Main St over the last four years with our outdoor rink?”

Albo answered, “About eighty percent, if you take the Winter Carnival over the last ten years as an example. There has only been one year that we really struggled and had to make the track out of snow rather than ice.”

Both council and the steering committee for the event are optimistic that Rossland will be able to overcome any challenges and agreed that the social and economic benefits of brining such an event to town far outweighed the costs.

“This is really ambitious; this is big, big stuff. It would really create a positive buzz for the town right when we need it. I really think it would add to our Winter Carnival and turn it into one of the best in the country,” added Mayor Smith.

The motion to support the event up to $12,000 was passed unanimously by council. The steering committee will now continue to move forward with the logistics of the event.

For more information, check out www.canadapondhockey.ca. If you’d like to get involved as a sponsor or help out with the event you can contact John Reed at johnreed@telus.net.

Categories: Sports

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