Think back to your pick-up softball games. They didn’t require much in the way of equipment: a mitt, a bat and a ball. There were no umpires, no foul lines, no groomed infields. You played for the love of the game; you learned to be creative and to compromise when there was a dispute. In northern climates, including many areas of the Midwest, baseball gave way to hockey in the winter. The same simplicity, however, applied: minimal equipment, makeshift rinks and ever-changing teams and conditions. After decades of organized hockey, it’s good to see many are now embracing a return to the game’s roots.
“All you need for outdoor hockey is your gear and a shovel to clear the snow and turn the surface into a hockey rink,” said Corry Kelahear, Reebok-CCM. “It’s less formal and offers more opportunity for more creativity. It’s great for individual skill development and it’s a nice way to reconnect with the simplicity of the game.”
“Pond hockey (also known as shinney) is how a lot of NHL players got their start. Those who participate in pond hockey are doing it for the love of the game. They love being outdoors, playing hockey in its original elements,” added Peter Bartlett of Bauer.
Unlike indoor hockey, outdoor hockey doesn’t require a great investment in equipment.
“The equipment is essentially the same as indoor hockey: skates, a stick, we always recommend wearing a helmet and it’s even more important to do so for outdoor hockey. A pair of gloves adds protection while making it easier to grab the stick and keep warm,” Bartlett added.
Kelahear explained that since outdoor hockey, or pond hockey, ice surfaces tends to be rougher, participants will need to have their skates sharpened more frequently. He actually recommends not using the high-end equipment of indoor hockey and getting pond hockey-specific equipment.
“With the Reebok-CCM products that Dunham’s carries, you can get the basic outdoor hockey equipment for about $150. That’s a reasonable investment for something that can deliver years of pleasure,” Kelahear said.
Bartlett echoed Kelahear’s sentiment. “A lot of kids get their first taste of the game playing shinney. Bauer makes everything needed for the game – from the first pair of skates for 4- to 5-year-olds to the skates being worn by 65 percent of NHL players and everything in between.”
If you’re thinking about giving pond hockey a try, here’s what our two experts recommend:
• Make sure the skates are comfortable. You don’t need a pro-level skate. Rather, look for something that is comfortable to wear and with plenty of padding. In addition to keeping your feet warm, the padding will absorb some of the blow, should you get hit with the puck.
• Skates don’t come sharpened, so the first experience won’t be a pleasant one without the proper edges. Your local Dunham’s store is a great resource for this service.
• Get a basic stick and tape it. Bartlett recommends an entry-level composite stick, as they are more durable and lighter weight.
• A helmet is especially important because the ice is not perfect as it is in indoor hockey.
“Beyond the basics, we always recommend a mouth guard, a jock strap for boys, elbow pads, probably shin guards and a very thin layer of gloves under the hockey glove. The latter help keep the hands a little warmer,” Kelahear added.
With any new product, be sure to consult with the sales staff to ensure you have the right product and the right fit. Bear in mind that skate sizes don’t correlate directly to shoe sizes. (Most people choose ice skates one size smaller than they wear for their everyday shoes.)
-Fun For All Ages
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