skip navigation

Pond Hockey Road Trip

01/20/2013, 11:45pm MST
By Michael Rand

Pond Hockey Road Trip!: Chance to play outdoors brings players from across the nation



Maria Lizotte has been playing in the Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championships for so many years that she and her teammates have a tradition:

They arrive at the site in Eagle River, Wis., on Thursday, a day before the competition begins. After they register, they take a walk out onto the frozen water where sticks and pucks will soon rule the day.

“It’s pitch dark, pristine, and nobody has skated on it before,” says Lizotte, who is slated to make her fifth appearance in the annual tournament next month. “It’s just the coolest experience.”

And it’s just one of the many reasons hockey players like Lizotte—who runs Rampage Women’s Hockey in suburban Chicago and is bringing three teams to this year’s tournament Feb. 8-10—are drawn to the pond hockey experience.

It’s a chance to get outside and capture some nostalgia. It’s hockey with some modified rules, literally played on a frozen body of water, with a series of side-by-side rinks created so players can compete just like those in colder regions did while growing up.

It has also evolved into a getaway destination complete with beers, laughs, competition, and like-minded strangers who quickly become friends.

“It combines everything we love—the hockey, the camaraderie, and of course the beer,” Lizotte says. “It’s something on everyone’s bucket list. You tell people about it and people are like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe something like that exists.’”

Plenty of people have figured out that it does. Ashley Bevan, USA Hockey’s senior director of adult hockey, has watched the event grow from struggling to get 20 teams in its first year to having nearly 350 teams registered for the upcoming eighth tournament.

While the size of the event has grown tremendously, the pond hockey game itself remains rooted in the past. It’s still a four-on-four game with two 15-minute halves played on 150 by 75-foot rinks. The goals are just 6 inches high and players have to make it past the center red line to attempt a shot.

“We want the experience of the hockey and coming to a small town to really be the charm of the attraction. Our goal is a good experience and the camaraderie that comes with this type of event,” Bevan says. “I think we get reunions and people reliving memories of simpler times. But we definitely see people who plan their vacation around it.”

That description fits Gerard Lamoureux, 40, who grew up in Chicago but now lives in St. Louis. His team—the Gargoyles—includes three players who live in St. Louis and four still back in Chicago. For five consecutive years (soon to be six), players have made the trek to Wisconsin for the championships.

It’s safe to say they were instantly hooked. They met like-minded hockey players from around the country, making instant connections they’ve maintained via Facebook during the year until they all meet again on the frozen water. The Gargoyles’ tradition is simple: drive up Thursday and have a big team dinner the night before the action begins.

“Everything about it is pretty awesome,” Lamoureux says. “There’s the reunion with our teammates, a great bunch of guys and having that time with them. And playing hockey outside is incredible.”

It’s even better when you occasionally win a game.

“Our first three years we went 0–9,” Lamoureux says. “But our first win was pretty big. We crushed this team. I think I scored four goals, and it was like, ‘finally, we broke through.’ That was a big moment.”

This year’s tournament will add a chapter filled with poignancy. Lamoureux’s wife, Stephanie, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the months leading up to his foray into pond hockey. In March of 2012, she passed away, and the Gargoyles will wear pink jerseys this year as a tribute.

“She gave us the motivation,” Lamoureux says, “and we’ve been doing it ever since.”


Everything You Need for Labatt Blue/USA Hockey Pond Hockey Tournaments.

Tag(s): Pond Hockey  News