KALISPELL, Mont. — This winter the Kalispell Convention & Visitor Bureau will host what is expected to be the largest pond hockey tournament in the Western United States with more than 50 teams from across the United States and Canada.
February 21-23, 2014, the first Montana Pond Hockey Classic will play out on the idyllic ice of Foys Lake, just a few miles from the hub of Kalispell in northwest Montana’s beautiful Flathead Valley.
Stanley Cup Champion and Hockey Hall of Famer Lanny McDonald will officially welcome players and is joining the action with several of his former Calgary Flames teammates. The Stanley Cup itself is also expected to make the trip, on behalf of Restore Hockey.
“Any player who loves the thrill of outdoor hockey is invited to the Montana Pond Hockey Classic,” said Lanny McDonald, the retired 16-year NHL forward for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Rockies (now the New Jersey Devils) and Calgary Flames. “My old friends and I look forward to being on the ice together again and are excited to meet many old and new outdoor hockey enthusiasts.”
Amateur pond hockey tournaments have largely been popular on the East Coast and in the Midwest, but the movement is starting to gain popularity on the frozen ponds of the West as well. Pond Hockey Classic, the producer of the first-time Montana event, has been producing some of the largest pond hockey events in the country over the last five years, including the New England and Lake Champlain Pond Hockey Classic tournaments.
“Those of us who grew up playing hockey in rinks can’t help but love taking the game back to its roots — back outside where the game was born,” said Scott Crowder, Pond Hockey Classic commissioner. “The unpredictable ice, weather and most of all the 4-on-4 game is as basic and fun as it gets, not to mention the atmosphere off the ice as well.”
In Montana, the frozen shoreline of Foys Lake will be filled with activities for participants as well as fans. Restore Hockey, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making hockey accessible and affordable by offering restored equipment to youth, will host a special event with the Stanley Cup as the guest of honor the evening of Saturday, Feb. 22. Hockey fans will have the rare opportunity to see the most famous trophy in North American professional sports, just after its Sochi stopover.
And for players who prefer some down time, Tamarack Brewing Company Beer Garden will be open in the Old Time Hockey Tournament Village and Fan Zone. Live music and entertainment, and food vendors will warm up players and spectators from the sidelines. And there will be lots of activities for young skaters too, including the Family Skating Pond and a skills clinic on Saturday, Feb. 22.
On the official tournament ice, players don’t have to have pro skills to get on the ice and have some fun. The tournament offers divisions for every skill level, including Open, 30+, 40+, Legend, Women’s, Just for Fun Under 35 and Just for Fun 35+. Participants are encouraged to form teams of four to eight, depending on the division in which they register. (Players must be at least 21 years of age to participate.)
“We invite hockey enthusiasts to grab their buddies, form a team and come to Montana for a weekend of pond hockey at its greatest,” said Rob Brisendine, group sales manager of the Kalispell Convention & Visitor Bureau. “Kalispell is excited to be part of the movement that’s taking hockey back to the basics.”
About Kalispell, Montana
Kalispell is the gateway to all of the recreation, shopping and adventure that northwest Montana has to offer. Ideally located in the center of the breathtaking Flathead Valley, it’s an easy drive to Glacier National Park, Flathead Lake, Whitefish, and the many cold- and warm-weather pursuits out its back door. discoverkalispell.com
About Pond Hockey Classic
Pond Hockey Classic is a host of pond hockey festivals in North America, including the New England, Lake Champlain and Montana Pond Hockey Classic tournaments. Pond Hockey Classic is dedicated to creating a competitive, traditional and nostalgic experience for participants and spectators. pondhockeyclassic.com