As I was making my way over to the other side of the lake this morning (nothing is direct here … gotta go around the lake) I drove into Meredith to find a beehive of activity – the New England Pond Hockey Classic. While I knew it was taking place this weekend, it didn’t interest me much because I know zero about hockey. But the sight of the carefully sculpted rinks, kids bundled to their teeth, and a bright pink bobhouse out on the ice made me veer the car off the road and into a parking lot. All I had on my feet were sneakers, but the weather was relatively warm and I wanted to see what pond hockey was all about.
This event began in 2010. Since then the number of teams participating has tripled to a total of 220 this year, with 1400 players coming from across the country (but predominantly New England; one team includes only members of the New Hampshire Air National Guard). It draws hundreds of people to the ice to watch, and gives a big boost to the local economy. This is a big deal.
The teams play on 20 rinks plowed clear on Lake Winnipesaukee in Meredith Bay, where the ice is about 20″ thick. A little worried about slipping in my less-than-desirable shoes, I tried to stay in the snow and avoid the bare ice. There were people everywhere, little kids on skates zipping past me, the smells of fried dough and grilled sausage in the air. Rinks were marked off with blue flags and I could hear pucks clacking off the sides. I wondered if any of them ever went airborne, and at one point I did hear some people yell and a puck landed not too far in front of me. I walked the length of the rinks and then beyond, where the bright pink bobhouse had caught my eye, and spotted a helicopter on the ice and some people holding a cookout. I overheard a woman say she was very nervous about walking out on the frozen lake.
While I did not learn anything new about hockey, it felt good to be outside after the long cold spell we’ve had. A snowstorm is in the forecast for the coming week but we can also look forward to the Rotary Ice Fishing Derby next weekend, the sled dog races in Laconia, and of course the ice racing on Berry Pond each weekend. Who says there is nothing to do in the winter?
New Hampshire is a different world – and for that I’m very glad!