One of Canada’s biggest pond hockey festivals kicks off every February (2017 dates TBA). Greater Sudbury Mayor Brian Bigger drops the puck on picturesque Ramsey Lake. For three days, Sudbury plays host to the legendary event, drawing thousands of spectators and marking the celebration of Sudbury’s favourite game.
The annual Pond Hockey Festival on the Rock features three days of three-on-three games for players of all ages and abilities. From PeeWee to Masters levels, youth and adult players face off in a “round robin” style tournament played out on the open ice. Snow is cleared to create 10 natural rinks on frozen Ramsey Lake, near Science North. With over 90 teams registered to play, and 3000 to 5000 spectators expected to take in the excitement, the festival is undoubtedly the highlight of the season in Greater Sudbury.
Though Canada’s national winter sport is undoubtedly the festival’s main draw, Ramsey Lake comes alive with a flurry of activities for spectators and families. Those keen on ice fishing are invited to try their hand at catching a pike or perch; families seeking an Arctic-style adrenaline rush can hop on a sled pulled by an enthusiastic team of dogs; jug curling - outdoor curling using homemade stones made from milk jugs - is a perennial festival favourite that never fails to produce some laughs.
As always, community members are encouraged to bring their skates and take to the ice over the weekend, while enjoying snow painting activities and hot air balloon rides. Local food vendors will keep bellies full with hot fare, including tasty Canadian Beavertails.
Sudbury’s annual Pond Hockey Festival was first established when a small, but enthusiastic, group of organizers saw a lack of organized outdoor winter activities in the Greater Sudbury area. To inject some excitement into what can be a long, cold winter, the Pond Hockey Festival was launched with 83 teams registered in its first year. Though the festival has since grown in size and activity, it has stayed true to the founders’ original vision, which is to provide a showcase for winter sport and activity in Greater Sudbury.
Festival Chair Barbara Nott explains the importance of the Sudbury event, “Sudbury has always been known for its hockey and outdoor activities. We are the city of 300 lakes. We have played hockey on frozen lakes and outdoor rinks all our life. Here we combine a sport that we we love to play with doing something that will benefit others in the community.”
Over 120 volunteers and several corporate sponsors contribute to making the weekend a success, and even the players pitch in and help out. In typical pond hockey fashion, at the end of each game, the team scoring the most number of goals is responsible for cleaning the ice.
Sudbury's hockey roots run deep, and the city has produced more than its fair share of pro hockey players, from Randy Carlyle to Kay Whitmore and Todd Bertuzzi, to name a few. Many Pond Hockey Festival participants are drawn to the sense of nostalgia that playing pond hockey can induce. With just ice, skates, sticks and pucks, the festival honours the hockey of our childhood, the game in its purest form.