The Original Winter Classic

Growing up as a kid in the South in the pre-video game era, summer days and after school afternoons were filled with whatever sport was in season at the time. Football in the fall, basketball in the winter and baseball or whiffle ball in the spring and summer were the order of the day. Being outside and playing sports was a year round passion that weather rarely hindered.

So what about youngsters in the Northern parts of our country and Canada. How do they pass time in the middle of winter when daytime temperatures never approach the freezing mark and the ground is covered with snow for months at a time? The answer to that question is fully explained in the release of the new movie “Pond Hockey.” The film would be considered a documentary by genre, but the story is told in a way that actually gives the film a beginning, plot and conclusion so it is much more than a History Channel type presentation.

The movie begins with the origins of hockey when the only ice available was on frozen lakes, rivers and ponds and hockey was played seasonally as weather permitted. The framework of the movie is provided by the 2005 International Pond Hockey Championship, which was held on a frozen lake in Minneapolis, Minnesota and involved one hundred teams of all levels of playing abilities.

The human interest part of the story that appeals to hockey fans and non-fans alike is a personal look at two individual teams, one a finalist (Federal League All-Stars) and another (Sofa King Lazy) made up of childhood friends who never grew up to leave the sport behind. You meet the individuals that made up the two teams and peek into their lives and see what drives them to play and compete outdoors under brutal weather conditions. Additionally, the film is interspersed with commentary by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, current star Sidney Crosby and many other players that you have and haven’t known.

I found the movie to be a real gem and would imagine that most folks who are fans of any sport would find the story an interesting and compelling look into a culture that most folks in the South have never imagined. The movie web site states “More than just a celebration of a beloved game, Pond Hockey searches the open ice for the true meaning of sport.” The one thing that all sports have in common beyond competition is the story of the people who play the game. We have all heard the tales of the great athletes in all the sports but the stories of everyday players can be equally absorbing as we see in this wonderful film.

The movie was screened in limited release and is available as a DVD at PondHockeyMovie.com.

This year’s annual Labatt/USA Pond Hockey Championships is slated to be held on Dollar Lake in Eagle River, Wisconsin, this week as part of the Hockey Weekend Across America. Over 200 teams from 24 states are slated to participate.

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