Making strides on Nottingham Lake | VailDaily.com
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Making strides on Nottingham Lake

Ian CroppVail, CO Colorado
SPT Pond Hockey PU 1-19-08
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NOTTINGHAM LAKE, AVON, Colorado Welcome to Nottingham Lake, home the Rocky Mountain Pond Hockey Championships. Ill be your guide.I know 9 a.m. is a bit early to play hockey on a Saturday now that your parents arent driving you and you are driving your own kids, and, yes, the temperature is still in the single digits, but I promise to show you a good time.Duck into the big, white tent and youll find a locker room park benches and, yes, a big space heater. If you want to get dressed on that snowbank down there, nobody is going to stop you.You usually dont wear sweat pants and a hoodie, although this is the pond, so anything goes. Nonmatching jerseys or T-shirts with your name scribbled on back? Sure, this isnt the NHL; its just about having fun.Get all your gear on and just walk to the pond its all ice from here out. Dont slip on the ice stairs, or youll be buying the first round of beer.It may feel a bit weird skating on pond ice just take a few strides, and youll be fine. Youll be playing those guys in the red with the Minnesota accents. Watch out, theyre ex-NHL players. Joe Deziekzic played for the Penguins and his buddy Reed Larsen laced it up for the Red Wings.We played outdoors in the parks there was usually ice from after Thanksgiving to around Valentines Day, Joe says. Its just what you did after school you go and play hockey.Why arent they playing in that big tournament out in Minneapolis this weekend?Its 20 below zero there, Reed says. This is balmy. Were better off here. Plus, we can ski tomorrow.Just because they played in the pros doesnt mean theyre an automatic lock to win.You never know whats going to happen, Joe says. Its a crap shoot.Check out the guy wearing the Brett Favre jersey and the Packers hat. With that 20-year-old stick, hes got pond hockey written all over him.When I moved here, I thought it was a shame I couldnt walk out of my backyard and play on a pond, local Chad Sloniker says. I grew up since I could walk playing on ponds. Every school and baseball field had two rinks. The water truck would come out and freeze it. … When I heard they had pond hockey championships here, I said, Game on.

If you still are a bit chilly, give it two minutes of skating and youll forget what a thermometer is. OK, heres the faceoff. Theres no ref, so just tap your sticks together three times, and then go!Hear that? Thats the sound of razor-sharp blades digging into rock-hard ice. I know youve heard it bunch of times in a rink, but it sounds different out here. You can even see the ice chips flying.Be careful, theres a few cracks in the ice, and the boards only go up to your ankles not your waist.If you hit the boards, youll fly over, Matt Hovey says. In my first game, I flew over the boards five times I didnt have my bearings yet. But its fun.Oh, I almost forgot to tell you, there are no goalies, and each team puts four players on the ice. Offsides? Nope. Icing? Nope. Its just like when you were a kid; youll figure it out.Theres a strategy to it, Matt says. We try to have two guys back, one in the middle, one guy float, and when you get the puck, send it down to the other end and the guy in the middle joins him. Its kind of a 2-on-2.Youre still cold? Thats impossible. Just skate faster. OK, I hear you, come with me to the corner of the lake to this blue tent. Trust me, its more than just a tent. The benches are clearly for sitting, but whats that long, rectangular box in between those two benches? Its a homemade skate warmer, of course. Look closely and youll see that there are five separate compartments. Flip open the one in middle, and theres a propane heater. The other four flip open and have leg holes where you can stick your skates. Ahhh, thats better.This was going to be for the kids tournament, but that got canceled, Dave Hymes says. So it went from that, and I decided it was going to be a warming hut for all the guys here, but then I got selfish and changed my mind and said, You know what, Im going to be selfish, and its going to be for my team. This is our locker room now.Daves a softy, though, so you can hang out in here anytime.So Dave, if you guys have the rink close to the tent next game, cant you change lines on the fly from here?Hey, I never thought of that.

We dont play three periods here, just two 15-minute halves, with a running clock. And pond hockey isnt just for the guys there are three girls teams here.Last year, there were just two, Kathy Bent says. This year, there are three. Next year, we want four. Wed love to have a better female presence there are a ton of women playing hockey in the area.They won it last year, but might have a tough time this year.There is one team with a guy on it an ex-Red Wings player, Kathy says.Here comes the whistle get ready for the second half. He shoots, he scores! What, no goal? I guess youre right, he was too close to the goal.Wow, those local guys are beating the Red Wings, and theres only a few minutes left. Ouch a puck in the foot never feels good, even with skates on.Theres the final whistle. Oh, man, they just beat the Red Wings Alumni. Thats kind of like that time when we were all 8 years old and beat all those bully 10-year-olds.Lets congratulate the captain, Dave Calderoia.This makes me think I kind of got hosed by the scouts when I was younger, Dave says. This is redemption for me. Anyone can beat anybody at anytime thats the best thing about it. Those guys are better than us talentwise, but we played smart and got a few goals early.Isnt there a bit more to it?Performance enhancer?The key is to have guys who can drink on your team, because that promotes winning, Dave says.Quick, check it out theres a tractor pulling a Zamboni on the ice. Dont you wish you had one of those on your pond?Wait, you werent paying attention to a single thing I said? Thats OK, just meet me here this morning at 9 a.m. or so its playoff time.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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