The NHL is back. So is pond hockey.
Rinks are being primed and ice-thickness is being measured for the third annual Montreal Pond Hockey Festival, to take place on Lake St. Louis in Lachine on Feb. 2-3.
Sixty teams of up to six players from Quebec, the United States, Ontario and Newfoundland have registered so far.
Organizer Sean Berry is pleased, but would be thrilled if more women would sign up.
“We have two women’s teams, but we need at least two more to form a division,” Berry said.
The two teams of women will play in men’s divisions if the registration falls short of the four-team minimum.
“We also need more volunteers to do things like carry watering cans to the rinks to touch up the surface,” Berry said.
And although Kubota Montreal is supplying the heavy equipment to do the big snow-removal jobs, volunteer shovellers are always in demand.
“We want people to come out and have fun,” Berry said. “Playing hockey outside is a great experience.”
Organizers consider age and skill level when creating divisions. Each team is guaranteed at least three, 30-minute games of four-on-four shinny. Games are played on eight, 75-by-150-foot rinks bordered by 10-inch-high boards. Players must wear helmets.
The rinks are set up on Lake St. Louis — near the corner of 29th Ave. and St. Joseph Blvd. in Old Lachine — and the borough has offered the use of the Vieille Brasserie building nearby.
Stop by to lace up skates, warm toes, have a bite to eat or, for visitors of legal drinking age, be served a Moosehead beer and enjoy live music in the pub set up on the second floor. Pub staff come from the Ye Olde Orchard Pub chain and a donation from major sponsor Desjardins means hot food will be available.
“It’s a beautiful location,” Berry said. “Lachine has been good to us. It really wants to encourage the public to use the lake — during the winter and the summer.”
Families are invited to skate a safe distance from the rinks. Skating is free for family members of tournament participants. Otherwise, it costs $5 for adults and $2 for students and seniors.
The first edition of the Montreal Pond Hockey Festival had 15 teams. Last year, the festival reached its goal of 45 teams. This year’s goal of 60 teams has been reached, but could be expanded to embrace more female players.
The Montreal Pond Hockey Festival takes place on Lake St. Louis, at the corner of St. Joseph Blvd. and 29th Ave. in Old Lachine, on Feb. 2-3. The Vieille Brasserie is at 2801 St. Joseph Blvd.
Registration costs $320 per team, taxes not included, with a maximum of six players per team. An individual player can register as a free agent and will be placed in a division matching age and skill level. The free agent registration fee is $55.
In the case of extreme weather or unsafe conditions, the event will be postponed until the following weekend.
For information, call 514-935-4099 or email email@example.com. Online registrations are accepted. Visit www.montrealpondhockey.com.