Lace your skates, it’s time for good old-fashioned Minnesota Pond Hockey
WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY ANDREA BAUMANN
MY HUSBAND TRENT WAS A RINK RAT (THAT’S AN AFFECTIONATE TERM). He was raised on much-too-late-evening drives to a sheet of ice in Crystal, Minnesota, for practices that would last until 11 p.m. His mother and father were the chauffeurs, last-minute meal makers, and number one fans to three brothers who lived and breathed hockey seven days a week.
But we’re not talking indoor arena hockey. Oh no. We’re talking good, old-fashioned, freeze-your-butt-off outdoor hockey in Minnesota. Pond Hockey. Where young boys wear women’s pantyhose for warmth, parents sit in cars to avoid 20-below wind chills, and a passion for the game of hockey is embedded in young souls.
Being from a very small town in west central Minnesota myself (shout out to Vergas), we didn’t have any organized hockey at the school level. When Trent and I moved to Brainerd, I learned what a commitment playing for an organized sport entails for not only the player, but the parents as well. We discussed the time and effort that would be needed for our two boys to join organized hockey, and decided to give our local park and recreation office a call instead. We wanted our kids to have the skills to play a pick-up game, know the basics of puck handling and skating, and still be able to get to bed at a decent time and go to church on Sunday mornings. Pond hockey fit the bill nicely.
Our oldest son, Sean, was the first to venture into the Pond Hockey arena at Mill Avenue Park. He came equipped with his own hockey stick, skates, and mouth guard, but otherwise was geared-up courtesy of the park and rec office. Helmet, elbow pads, shin guards, and breezers all provided for use with the $40 fee. (Seriously. Who DOESN’T try Pond Hockey for $40?)
The first year was—interesting. Sean had just learned to skate, and his skills in hockey were few. Two evenings a week, plus a game on Saturday mornings, became our schedule January until the end of February.