Pond Hockey’s Simplicity Appeals to Growing Fan Base

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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A Frozen Treat

It’s time to play nice on the ice.
 
We’ll take our winter on ice. There’s no better way to enjoy the cold months than by taking up a winter sport, a winter sport played on ice. Whether it be hockey, figure skating or just a pleasant afternoon spent tracing circles on a neighborhood pond, ice makes winter a special time of year.
 
While ice sports have always been part of northern winters, the proliferation of indoor skating rinks has made sports on skates a favorite of those who live in places where ponds never freeze. But the indoor trend has reversed a bit in colder parts of the country, as skaters and head back outdoors to play on the ponds.
 
Pond Hockey
 
Those of us approaching senior-citizen status undoubtedly played our first hockey on a frozen pond or lake. I ventured onto the ice at the age of five on Chicago’s Midway Plaisance, a remnant of a long-ago world’s fair that the city fathers would flood for skating. In later years, my friends and I played hockey on ponds in city parks. There was something about one’s breath turn-ing into ice crystals and the tingle of single-digit temperatures that invigorated. My kids, who grew up in the eighties, missed out on that, as indoor rinks became the skating venues of choice.
 
Today, pond hockey and outdoor skating are coming back in a big way. Like the pond hockey we played as kids, today’s games are usually held on a rink that is smaller than an NHL rink. A barrier of snow is often the only thing that serves to keep the puck on the ice, although organized pond-hockey competitions – of which there are more every year – are played on natural rinks ringed with minimal wooden boards.
 
Dunham’s can provide the equipment you’ll need to play pond hockey. Of course, you need a good pair of skates, a hockey stick, gloves and a puck. For most venues, helmets aren’t mandatory but are highly recommended. Shin guards are a good idea as well, since a flying puck can leave an ugly bruise. But since hard physical contact isn’t part of pond hockey, the armor worn for organized indoor hockey is often not worn.
 
Although pick-up pond hockey can be played with a makeshift net, Dunham’s carries the Mylec 810 and EZ Goal nets that can be quickly set up on the ice.
 
Figure Skating
 
Figure skating experienced a surge in popularity when the friends of one prominent lady skater tried to break the kneecaps of another prominent lady skater. Why it took an unseemly event to draw attention to figure skating is a mystery to devotees of the sport, but today nearly every little girl and quite a few little boys dream of becoming Olympic skating stars.
 
Of course reaching the upper echelons of any Olympic sport is a one in a million shot, but there’s plenty of fun to be had at less competitive levels. Figure skating demands coordination, good muscle tone and a certain amount of grace, so benefits de-rived from making the effort are multitudinous. And because most skating schools conclude the season with a public perfor-mance, students get a chance to show off their skills.
 
While the majority of figure-skating students are youngsters, many schools have classes just for adults. If you’ve always wanted to learn to do a double axle, you can do so at any age, and you don’t have to worry about being shown up by a five year old.
 
At the beginners level, all that is need to learn figure skating is a decent pair of skates. As a student progresses, more ad-vanced skates with special toe points are required to perform the jumps and spins taught at higher levels. Dunham’s carries a full selection of figure skates. Ask one of our sales assistants to help you choose the right equipment.
 
Recreational Skating and Ice Games
 
While hockey and figure skating offer competition along with the joy of skating, just making figure eights on a frozen pond can be lots of fun. And if that’s not enough to keep the youngsters interested, there are many games that can be played on the ice.
 
At the pond where I hung out as a teen we played “crack the whip.” To play, a line of half a dozen or more skaters is formed, each holding the hips of the skater in front or linking hands. The lead skater pulls the line with those behind assisting. As speed builds, the skater at the head of the line executes a sharp turn, which cracks the whip and causes the last couple of skaters in the line to accelerate rapidly towards the snow banks at the edge of the rink.
 
Informal races can be fun on ice. And while these can just pit each skater against the others, they can also involve complexi-ties, like skating backwards and pulling a second skater or towing a sled and rider. An obstacle course made up of sticks, rocks, boots, and whatever else is available can also add a different dimension to on-ice races.
 
-Ski Bum
 
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