Good year for ice should mean a great year for Pond Hockey Classic
MEREDITH — As Tom Noble holds a fire hose pumping Winnipesaukee lake water onto the thick ice surface of Meredith Bay, a loud thump is heard and then a loud "crack" from the ice below his feet, echoing across the bay in the 18-degree air.
He's not the slightest bit worried by the noise.
"That's the ice singing to us," said Noble, a Center Harbor resident working for Scott Crowder, the founder and operator of the New England Pond Hockey Classic, held each year on bay ice.
"It talks to us a lot, but there's 17 inches of ice beneath us, nothing to worry about," Noble said.
Ben Long of Holderness measured the ice by sight when he used a motorized ice fishing drill to make a hole to the water, which is then pumped onto the surface of the 22 rinks they are preparing for the tournament, which is in its fifth year.
He was surprised that it took the drill so long to reach water.
"It's usually about 15 inches," Long said. "You can tell it's been a good year for ice."
It looks like it's going to be a great year for the classic. The first tournament was in February 2010 with just over 100 skaters. This year, more than 225 teams are set to play the rinks on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
"We're expecting more than 1,400 players, so, yeah, this looks like the best year yet," said Crowder, a former Bishop Guertin High School of Nashua star whose father is former NHL player Bruce Crowder and whose uncle is retired NHL player Keith Crowder.
Crowder, who also played college hockey for the University of Massachusetts, organizes companion hockey "classics" on Lake Champlain in Vermont and in Montana.
The tournament has many sponsors, from local businesses such as Biederman's Deli and Pub in Plymouth to corporate sponsors such as Labatt of Canada.
It draws teams from all over North America, though most are from New England.
The tournament donates money raised to charities and is dedicated to bringing back hockey "as it used to be, on ponds," Crowder said.
"At the end of the day, it's about spending a weekend playing pond hockey with your friends, sharing some laughs, and of course, some adult beverages," he said. "The events will grow, the faces will get older, but the spirit of the events will never change."