Hockey and ringette players enjoyed their sports the way nature intended Dec. 27 to 29, 2019, at the second annual Tim Hortons Western Canada Pond Hockey Championships in Chestermere.
The competition, held on the northeast corner of the lake, featured 85 teams, 12 age divisions and 14 separate rinks.
“The atmosphere, in general, was awesome,” said Alex Halat, spokesman and event promoter. “It was just something to do for the folks who didn’t leave town and for the folks who had people come visit them.”
While last year’s inaugural tournament featured between 40 and 50 teams, the success of the initiative meant more than 100 teams expressed interest in competing in 2019, according to Halat, which meant limiting registration to 85 teams.
“Just with the logistics of having 14 rinks and it being our second year, we didn’t know if we could manage that many teams and people,” he said. “Each team has to get in two games per day, so we would have had to have three or four more rinks.”
The format of the tournament saw teams play four-on-four, with no goaltenders. Players, ranging from toddlers to seniors, attempted to put the puck into small nets that were one foot high and two feet wide. Each rink measured 125 feet long and 55 feet wide, according to Halat.
Tournament sponsors included Tim Hortons, which provided free hot chocolate and Timbits, and several local businesses.
Proceeds from team registration fees supported the Chestermere Regional Food Bank.
One local player who enjoyed the three days of shinny was Chestermere resident Dean Livingston, a player on Team Budweiser in the adult rec division.
“I’m loving it,” he said after one of his games Dec. 28. “It’s amazing. I didn’t know about it [last year], as I just moved here, but I’ve heard it’s doubled in size, and it’s been awesome.
“Look at all the fun everyone is having – it’s just great.”
With the competition’s growing popularity, Halat said continuing to expand the tournament in a logical fashion will be a focus for organizers, moving forward.
“We learned from last year, and this year, we’ll learn what we can do differently for next year, and hopefully continue to grow it every year,” he said, adding one example is to widen the space between rinks next year, so attendees can have more room to manoeuvre around the ice surfaces on skates.
The addition of 19 ringette teams this year was another positive change from the inaugural competition, according to Halat.
“Overall, it has been a huge success,” he said. “It surpassed what we, as organizers, thought would happen.”