Westworld Saskatchewan

Winter 2012

Issue link: http://digital.canadawide.com/i/118148

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Page 14 of 47

O N F R OZ E N POND The spirited sport of pond hockey is heating up by Lucas Aykroyd >> photography by Greg Huszar B ARE, BROWN TREES SURROUND THE frozen expanse of Wascana Lake, minutes south of downtown Regina. Yet there's plenty of life on the ice. Clacking hockey sticks, crunching skates, laughter and groans – it's the sound of winter in Saskatchewan. The sound of pond hockey. On this bright, clear day, it's easy to see why 30 recreational teams, totalling nearly 200 players, have shelled out $450 apiece to take part in the second annual Prairie Pond Hockey Challenge. Indeed, pond hockey's popularity has exploded in North America's chillier corners in the past decade with more than 100 tournaments now held everywhere from Alberta to Minnesota. Hailing from Vancouver, I've made the trip east to experience first-hand this quintessential Canadian pastime. A last-minute roster addition, I'm doing some advance scouting before pulling on my blue Wascana Centre team jersey and lacing up my old Bauer Black Panthers (I'd found the skates stuffed inside an old cardboard box in my apartment back home). I didn't grow up playing outdoor shinny on the West Coast. In Victoria, the land of cherry Some 200 players across 30 recreational teams brave -18 C weather during the Prairie Pond Hockey Challenge — one of more than 100 tournaments held across North America last winter. Photo credit here p14-19_Getaways.indd 15 blossoms, I can count on one hand the number of times I stickhandled around my local duck pond. As a pre-teen, I did play in the Novice Hockey League instituted by nowHockey Canada president Bob Nicholson at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre, back in the 1980s. Still, that gives me limited credibility with the swift-skating, toque-sporting, unshaven Regina dudes making the puck dance on 18 snowbank-rimmed rinks, which measure a compact 42 by 21 metres apiece. Many of these teams regularly play together. My other hockey experience includes the last three Winter Olympics, twelve IIHF World Championships and four World Juniors (including the 2010 edition in Regina), plus hundreds of NHL games. But the bad news is I attended as a journalist, not a player. As Don Cherry might say: "Hoo boy. This is gonna be tough." Parked on the 51-centimetre-thick ice, a silver Dodge Ram truck honks to signal the end of the current games. Exhaling gusts of white in the -18 C air, I trudge up to the canvas warm-up tent just above the lake. Here, guys are swigging Coors Light at 10 a.m. and grousing cheerfully about the heaters not coming on fast enough. The day's just started, and my fingers already sting a little inside the wool gloves I bought for $3.23 at Dollarama earlier this morning (typical B.C. guy – I forgot my own mitts at home). I've got a few minutes to kill before my team's second game versus the Whiskey WESTWORLD >> W I N T E R 2 0 1 2 15 12-10-19 9:45 AM

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