On sunny winter afternoons and cold wintry nights, from the interior of British Columbia through the upper midwest and onto the eastern seaboard, there are familiar sounds: vulcanized rubber hitting makeshift plywood boards, the crunch of a metal blade churning up ice, and the rattle of a stick tapping indicating someone is open for a pass. Yes, these are the sounds of pond hockey, the glorious sounds of pond hockey.
For those who played or play, there is no better way to spend some winter hours outside. For me it was a huge part of growing up. My brothers, friends of ours and I would rush home from school, ditch the book bag, lace up and hit the organically formed ice in the nearby park or in any number of buddies backyard rinks. This was grass roots hockey at it's finest. There were no coaches teaching defensive systems, no referees, no hockey parents - actually more often than not, there was no adult supervision of any kind - and we were self policing, and that's the way we liked it. All we needed were skates, a stick and a pair of gloves. The only rules were no body checks and no raising the puck, and those were followed loosely at best. We just got out there and played and played for hours until someone's mother called them in for dinner or bedtime.
The beauty of outdoor pond hockey, or "shinny" in my neck of the woods, was the game could take on any shape or form - from three on three, to ten on ten, depending on how many kids showed up. No two rinks were exactly the same, all had their own unique imperfections and characteristics. One in my neighborhood had a tree right in the middle of it - that tree played some great D, but had a lousy shot. Some rinks were on land, some were on a frozen pond, someone always stepped through the ice and got a frozen soaker early or late in the season on those. Some rinks had boards, some had snow banks as a perimeter, but one thing all these rinks had in common were a bunch of kids out there playing, playing in weather that made most cloister in the warmth of their homes, but not pond hockey players. We were outside. I remember fondly being outside on frozen nights when you felt like you were the only ones out there. On those nights, you had the world to yourselves where time stood still and we loved it.
The B1G comes full circle on Friday night, and has put the game featuring The Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Ohio State Buckeyes outside on a rink in TCF Bank Park in a game dubbed, The Hockey City Classic, and what better venue for it than that? Minnesota is arguably the heart of college hockey and more than likely the capital of outdoor rinks in America. No doubt they will be great hosts for this and put on a great show. For the players on these two respective teams, this will surely bring back great memories of their hockey beginnings.
So don your favourite hockey jersey, pull on a wool toque, cook something in a crock pot, pour three fingers of whatever spirits keep you warm and enjoy the outdoor action.
In the under-card for this event, we also get "We Are" visiting,"Go Green Go White" from Munn Arena in East Lansing, in what also is shaping up to be a hotly contested matchup.
Friday, Jan 17th PSU v MSU. TV: BTN 6:30pm EST
Friday, Jan 17th OSU v Minny. TV:BTN 9:00pm EST