WEST POINT -- Fifty-two teams – 101 games. By all accounts, West Point Fire Department’s ninth annual P.E.I. Pond Hockey championship was one big success.
Action started under the lights Friday evening and wrapped up under the lights on Saturday. In between was a full day of hockey in brilliant sunlight. Players didn’t seem to mind the minus 15-degree weather, and spectators were able to use the temperature for an excuse to escape to the events tent where heaters provided warmth and picnic tables afforded players with space to rest up and re-energize.
The Surf ‘n Turf team of Ralph and Luke Rennie, Derek Lewis and Kenton Smallman emerged as the overall champions, defeating the Jordan Costello team in the A Division final. Other members of Team Costello were Kaelan Brennan, Nick Reilly and Josh MacKinnon.
Of course, the big winner from the event was the West Point Fire Department, which uses the proceeds from registration canteen sales, the Friday night pub and trivia and the Saturday night dance to keep the department well equipped.
Stephen Stewart, one of the organizers, said it is the department’s main fundraiser and added this year’s event should be on par with last year’s total. The 52 teams entered this year were the most ever.
Volunteers worked all through the coldest week of the winter to convert the Stewart Enterprises pit into 10 hockey rinks and a large rink for skating and to accommodate an events tent.
Then, two days before the event was due to start, the rain came and melted away most of the snow partitions between rinks. There was still water along the edges of the pit when games started Friday. With only six rinks in use at a time, organizers were able to schedule games on rinks that were unaffected by the water. When action resumed on Saturday everything was frozen, enabling organizers to move games around so that re-surfacing could be carried out on ice that was just played on while games continued on other surfaces.
Organizers are toying with the idea of setting up 2X6 partitions next year to make weather even less of a factor.
Six fire departments had teams or players entered in the championship, including the North River Department.
“We decided to come up and support the West Point Fire Department to get themselves some new gear and raise some money for their department,” said Ron MacLeod, who is a nephew of West Point’s fire chief.
West Point might be able to return the favour, though, as the North River department is considering organizing a spring or fall ball hockey tournament as a fundraiser.
Darryl Donahue was the recipient of the Dustin Clements Memorial trophy as a player who demonstrates love and compassion for the game. Donahue’s team were C Division winners. The trophy for most sportsmanlike team went to John Locke’s team.
Rounding out Donahue’s C Division championship team were Mike O’Halloran, Evan Shea and Colby Callaghan. On the C runner-up team were Devon Arsenault, Richard Swan and Mike Jones.
Team Midland, Darren Smith, Mark Phillips and Mike Player won B Division over the Summerside team of Nick Milligan, John Buckley, Jamie Rodgerson and Ben DeMerchant.
Action was fast in the no-contact games. Pucks would sometimes fly over the low walls between rinks and someone would skate over to retrieve them and play would carry on. Teams quickly retreated to shelter between games. With rinks always available, games proceeded pretty well on schedule. A team of volunteers was always ready to patch up and resurface rinks as soon as games ended.